IN the Face of Tragedy

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  /Luke 13:1-5

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In the face of life’s tragedy we want an answer to the question of “WHY?” A day ago, we got news of a crushing loss that struck a family we met through ministry. It is shocking, horrifying, and the question rumbles all the louder: “WHY LORD?”

As unsatisfying as it is sometimes, we know the answer to the why. An imperfect world gives us imperfection. In the pain of loss, as we seek Jesus, he refocuses us. Instead of being lost in the question of why, he calibrates us to wake up to the question of: “WHAT WILL YOU DO IN RESPONSE!”

When are each of us going to wake up to our own need for repentance? When is tomorrow too long to wait? Today you have enough time to stop and come back to Jesus. Take a few minutes right now and allow the light of God to shine into the dark places, turn back to holiness, and let’s repent instead of perish.

Living Through Loss

After living with less the Shummanite woman faces loss–something so common we expected it and yet at the same time long for more. It was her rejoicing turned mute: going cold, dark, and dead—as we actually begin …

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Living Through Loss (2 Kings 4:18-20, 25-28) 18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!” His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. A miraculous birth now amounts to a mountain of pain! Alfred Lord Tennyson famously penned, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all… 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’” “Everything is all right,” she said. 27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” 28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Continue reading “Living Through Loss”

Great Exchange: Consumed

God has given us everything around us, people, possessions, and even person-hood as a way to develop our character into Christ-likeness, he gives us a chance to give in order to evaluate our Internal Condition, but a renewed character in Christ is always going to have real-life ramifications in how our world is…

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  Move #3: CONSTRUCTED- Our parable gives us one more character, the aptly named third servant who was entrusted with a portion of the Master’s wealth—Unlike the first two, (Matthew 25:18, 24-29) 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ Notice the paradox of what unfolds. The servant is self-centered making it all about him and he suffers. When had he focused on the master he would have found success. He gets completely consumed by excuses and consumed by the fear of failure. 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
The servant had the same calling as the first two offered to him. The same master was waiting to welcome him, but he missed his calling, too consumed by worry of the world. Continue reading “Great Exchange: Consumed”

Pursued: Prevailing Pusuit

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It is after fleeing God and finally making a course correction that we find even in the punishing storm a transcendent plan emerging…

with God’s Prevailing Pursuit (13-16) Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you LORD, have done as you pleased. Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.

In this culture, the sailors fear that regardless of the circumstances or situational needs, the God of the land and sea will hold the death of his prophet against them. We see in the midst of the raging weather a massive and mighty mercy transcend the storm. While Jonah rather be thrown overboard than go over to Nineveh, we find all along God didn’t use the storm as an affliction but out of his affection for the lost. The pagan sailors go from praying to their gods who were powerless to intervene and by the end offer sacrifices and vows to the one who could calm the sea.

It was the pursuit that showed the sailors the truth. And God’s pursuit didn’t end with Jonah, Jesus is ultimately the great picture of God the pursuer, not pursuing to punish but to penetrate the hardness of our hearts. Pursuing to penetrate the veneer of humanity by becoming human. Pursuing to break the bonds of sin by taking on our sin, he became the storm in order that we could find his peace at the cross.

It is in the midst of life’s natural afflictions that God’s affection can shared. The year was 251 BC and it was the height of fear, paranoia, and horror. The bishop of Carthage chronicled the events that were happening in the streets around him. The world seemingly was falling apart. 5,000 people a day were dying at the hand of the Cyprian plague. Christian was illegal and yet once the healthy family members, doctors and wealthy nobles fled for safer pastures, it was the Christians that went out into the streets and nursed the sick, dying, and abandoned. Pontius, the bishop’s biographer recorded the results: Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead

God was calling them to engaged rather than retreat. It reminds me of the world in which Jesus lived. The 4 major religious groups were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essences. The Pharisees wanted to be holy even if it came at the expense of being hospitable. The Sadducees were political and wealthy, the Zealots wanted to crush Rome and hated tax collectors, and the Essence were against anyone not in their sect. Only Jesus was engaging the world around him. Jesus death was an offering for the executive in his corner office and the single mom in her mobile home. It isn’t someone else’s job to care for the spiritually lost, hurting, the widows and orphans. If we take God’s word seriously, realizing it is the best way of life, than we are offered chances as Christians for a prevailing pursuit—it is our opportunity to feed to the hungry, to comfort the widow, to visit the prisoner, to welcome into our homes the orphaned, and to take under our wing the searching. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

The greatest escape of all wasn’t Jonah running to the other side of the world, or the sailors escaping death by sea, but it was God through his mercy allowing each of us to worship what works—to find a new captain of our lives, a new course for our lives—we find God’s love in his pursuit—as he pursues us to leads us to the way that will ultimately PREVAIL.

 

MARK MY WORDS- Identity

As we see how far God went in answering the question, “God, don’t you care if we perish?” in sending his own Son to die on the cross, we find one more step in truly seeing the fullness of God’s answer.

Jesus in coming to earth, reveals an identity which is the means to our new identity. (Mark 4:41) They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

When you see someone do something so powerfully beyond your expectations, it is pretty natural to stop and question…”Who is this person?” Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is not built during crisis, it is revealed during crisis.” Continue reading “MARK MY WORDS- Identity”

Mark My Words-HOPE

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Sometimes it is only in the storms of life, that the world becomes dark enough that we can see the light of Christ waiting. In the fallen moments as we cry out, “God, don’t you care if we perish?” we see through our text…

Jesus meets us at our darkest moment, with our greatest hope (Mark 4:39) He got up, rebuked the win and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

For the disciples to this point in being with Jesus, this is their biggest challenge. More are on the horizon, but they can’t see it, they don’t know what is waiting, the life they are truly being called to, or what the future will look like, the blood spilled, the miles traveled, but it is in this dark moment that they are receiving a hope for the hopeless moments to come! It is the darkest moments—like the one that would come as Jesus hung on the cross, when the sky literally turned black, where Christ hung beaten and tortured, thorns on his head, seemingly losing the fight, that the moment on the boat and others which followed were meant to speak. Faith which meets the darkest moments with the greatest hope!

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Continue reading “Mark My Words-HOPE”

Mark My Words-Ripping up the Righteousness

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We just have been given a picture of 4 men who went to extraordinary lengths out of compassion for their hurting friend, we saw Jesus build off their faith to meet the obscure urgent need, not just the obvious want, but have you ever noticed how some people, no matter how good things are going seem to focus on making something negative…The religious leaders were no exception…as they worked at…

Ripping up the Righteous (Mark 2:6-11) Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

Someone once joked: Some people are so negative, if you put them in a dark room, they’ll develop. These religious leaders were able to develop as they heard in Jesus words an unacceptable claim: Jesus was God in human flesh! Sometimes people will argue, “Jesus never claimed to be God,” but if only God could forgive sins…they knew exactly what he was claiming to be, and in case of any doubt his clarification leaves no doubt, “Which is easier” to cleanse a man spiritually or heal him physically…Jesus says, if I can do the harder, I must have power over the lesser—then here is the biggest sign of all…He uses the title “Son of Man”— for himself…which alluded to Daniel 7:13—a heavenly figure who “given all authority; glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language would worship him.”

Being criticized is not a problem if you develop a positive way of dealing with it. Winston Churchill had the following words of Abe Lincoln framed on the wall of his office: “I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.” Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, pp. 15-16.

Anytime you are doing something worth doing, people are going to criticize you, people are going to scoff, people are going to complain, and yet what we can learn from Christ—is that the mission comes before the complaints, the needs of the lost and hurting before the comfortable. Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Instead of ripping apart the righteous, we have to ask of ourselves: are we criticizing the church or changing the world?