Category: Mark (Page 1 of 14)

Resurrection Hope Right Now

In Mark’s resurrection story, it’s not, “Hey, Jesus is raised! That means there really is life after death!” No, it’s more like, “Jesus is raised and he wants you to go to Galilee to see him! Today! You will see him, just as he told you!” In other words, everything Jesus told you about God’s Kingdom is coming true right now. It’s happening today. And you’re in on it!

Same deal in Matthew. “He is risen from the dead! Awesome! That means we’re going to heaven!” No, it’s more like, “Go see him in Galilee today! He’s got work for you to do! When Jesus meets them there, they worship the risen King and he says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Now, go! And surely I am with you every step of the way!”

Resurrection doesn’t mean escaping from the world someday when we die. It’s means ministering to the world today while we’re alive. Resurrection hope is a way to live and work for the sake of the world by the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus right now. We are the messengers now, we’re the deliverers of the Good News that the risen Messiah is the King of the whole world. We demonstrate that Good News by living resurrection lives. We call on others to receive it and respond to it for their own resurrection power and hope in Jesus.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They will rest from their labor for their deeds will follow them.” ~Revelation 14:13

We are–each of us, all of us–commissioned by God’s resurrection power to live and work for the coming and everlasting Kingdom of God on earth. That’s Christ’s prayer and that’s our hope: that God’s will be finally and fully done on earth as it is in heaven. We’re not oiling the wheels of a giant machine that’s going to roll off the side of a cliff. We’re not restoring a masterpiece painting that’s ultimately going to be thrown into a fire. We’re not planting roses in a garden that’s destined to be dug up for a parking garage. You are accomplishing something every day that will be an important part of God’s eternal Kingdom forever.

Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every act of care and nurturing, of comfort and support; every prayer lifted; every lesson taught; every good deed that spreads the Good News; everything you do in the name and manner of our Lord Jesus becomes an important part of his Kingdom. We are given resurrection hope in order to share that hope with others. And everything we contribute to the cause–everything!–is used by God toward that great and ultimate end. Every cup of cold water given in his name; every snack packed for at-risk school kids; every check written for foreign missions; every meal served at Family Promise; every diaper changed at Young Lives; every kid mentored at Opportunity Tribe; every fist bumped at Emerson Elementary; every hospital and prison visit; every act of kindness toward an immigrant or refugee–all your work matters. Every minute is packed with heavenly potential. Every action is loaded with eternal consequences. What great hope!

Resurrection hope. Genuine hope for tomorrow. Living hope for today.



Choosing the Way

The Bible confronts us with two ways. A choice. Not where you’re going to live, not what career you’re going to pursue, not who you’re going to marry, nor where you’re going to lunch. The choice we have certainly encompasses and impacts all those other decisions you make. But there’s only one choice in Scripture: the way of life or the way of death, the way of blessing or the way of curse, the way of God or the way of the world.

Jesus says, “I am the Way.” I am the Way you get to God and I am the Way God comes to you. I am the Way.

So we choose Jesus. We choose the Way of life, the way of blessing, and the way of God when we choose Jesus. And when we choose Jesus as the Way, when we choose the way of Jesus, what is it exactly that we’ve chosen? When we choose Jesus, what are we signing up for?

The very first recorded words of Jesus are in Mark 1. If Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels – almost everyone concludes it is – these are the earliest and first words of our Lord we have recorded and preserved. A radical inaugural announcement and then three commands.

“The time has come! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent and believe the Good News! Come, follow me!” ~Mark 1:15-17

A dramatic declaration. The Kingdom of God is near. Right now. Present tense. And then three primary commands. Three imperatives. These come first.

Repent: Leave your current way of life and start out on another way. Repent means to change your mind and heart. It’s a reverse-course. A change of direction.

Believe: See it. Experience it. Get into it. Live into a personal, relational, trusting involvement in the realities of the Kingdom of God.

Follow me: Live your life obediently in a way that matches up with the lordship of Jesus. What you do and why you do it and the way you do it – all of that submitted to Jesus. Follow me. It’s a direct command.

This isn’t a signup sheet like for small groups leaders or the women’s retreat. Jesus isn’t posting office hours so he can discuss the Kingdom with you if you’re interested. He commands it. “You! Follow me!”

You sitting in a church building on Sunday doesn’t make you a disciple anymore than sitting in a chicken coop makes you a chicken. You’ve got to get behind Jesus and follow him in his way. As a church, maintaining a status quo is not the same thing as following Jesus. Being a member in good standing or being a good middle-of-the-road church is not the same as following Jesus. Being a disciple means we make the call to give it all for the sake of others. We choose to lose our rights and refuse to use our might for the sake of his great name. We obey and we do things his way. The Jesus Way.



Don’t Be Afraid

When Jesus walks across the water in Mark 6, it’s not like he’s performing a card trick to amaze his friends. He’s not showing off. And it’s not something he did all the time. Jesus walks across the surface of the sea in order to communicate something very specific to his followers in this particular moment. In the middle of their struggle to obey his command to go across the lake to the other side, in the middle of their fear of the storm and their frustration at being blown off course, Jesus comes to them as only he can. He walks on the water and calms the winds to say clearly to them, “I am God.” And “I am with you.”

“Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” ~Mark 6:50

Actually, Jesus doesn’t say, “It is I.” The original Greek words in this verse are eigo eimi — “I AM.”

Only God, the Creator of heaven and earth, walks on the water and treads the sea. Only God Almighty calls himself “I AM.” Jesus comes to his disciples in the middle of their fear to say, “You’re not following a great prophet like Elijah, you’re not following a scriptural superhero like Moses. I am God.”

And he climbs into the boat with them.

“I am God. And I am with you. I’m right here. I’m in your boat with you. We’re doing this together.”

It’s important to notice that Jesus doesn’t rescue his followers out of the sea. He gets in the boat with them. And he takes them to the other side. What he commanded them to do, he did with them. For them.

Jesus is saying, “I’m doing this with you. We’re together. I have dominion over heaven and earth, I’m in charge of the skies and seas, I have authority over the earthly powers and the demons in hell — and I am with you. I will carry you through this.”

He who began a good work in you will  carry it through to completion.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

“Take courage. I AM. Don’t be afraid.”



Made Himself Nothing

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” ~ Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus did not consider his equality with God something to be used for his own benefit. Jesus saw his position and power as a way to serve others. A way to serve all. He became a servant. The Greek word in the text is actually “slave.” Deprived of the most basic human rights. No rights. No freedom. No choice. No voice. He gave up all that for the sake of others. In his own words, Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.

Our Lord never exercised his rights. He never asserted his rights.

This is so important for us to consider. As citizens of the United States of America coming off a three-day weekend celebrating the country’s independence, we should reflect on our priorities as they fall into line behind those of our Lord.

Jesus never fought for or defended his rights. He never lobbied for his rights or complained about his rights. He didn’t worry about losing his rights or step forward to keep his rights.

Christ Jesus, our King, gave up his rights. All his rights. He denied his rights.

And he invites us to do the same. He invites us to imitate him.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34

Jesus left everything. He considered the glory he shared with the Father in heaven nothing. He came here to suffer, to be deserted by his family and friends, to be tortured and executed  like a criminal for people like you and me. For all people.

And he didn’t have to. Jesus had the authority. He had the power. The armies of heaven were at his disposal. He had ten thousand angels on speed dial. Jesus and his followers could have marched to Rome in the morning, overthrown the government that afternoon, hang Caesar from the highest tree and still been home in time for dinner. Jesus could have given each of his apostles his own country and they could have run the government the way it needs to be run. But, instead, he gave up his rights and died. He gave himself up.

And he summons us to do the same.



He Did Everything

Palm Sunday begins with so much glory and promise. At last, God’s anointed has come! There’s shouting and singing and celebration and anticipation. Jesus has come to save us! He’s come to defeat the evil oppressors and to destroy the enemy! We’re in those swelling crowds around Jesus, following Jesus, praising Jesus, putting all our hopes for salvation in Jesus. And Jesus rides that donkey right into Jerusalem, through the Eastern gates, into the holy city, right into the heart of the temple precinct, and he does…


Nothing. Jesus doesn’t do anything.

“Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” ~Mark 11:11

Jesus doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t lead the crowd against the Roman garrison, he doesn’t physically confront the powers and authorities that are oppressing the people, he doesn’t even take the temple steps to make a stirring speech. He looks around for a little bit and then goes back to Bethany for dinner.

What a disappointment. What a letdown. What kind of Messiah is this? What sort of Savior?

I know sometimes it can feel like Jesus is doing nothing. And somebody has to do something! Jesus can’t just look around at everything, he can’t just look at my life and my struggles and my problems and just shrug his shoulders and go back to Bethany. He has to do something!

Jesus did do something. Jesus did something to finally and completely and ultimately destroy the effects of sin and death in your life and throughout the whole world forever. Jesus resolutely set his face toward Golgotha and walked to the cross. He died. On a cross. On purpose.

He allowed himself to be beaten and tortured. He allowed them to nail his hands and feet to the blood-soaked wood of that cross. He died willingly. He sacrificed himself. He could have called ten thousand angels. But he died alone. For you. For me. That’s what Jesus did. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This is how he saves you. This is how he loves you, to the point of absurdity. He loves you all the way to the cross. Purposefully, willfully, stubbornly even, dying on a cross.




About to Pass By GCR

One of my most favorite passages in all of Scripture is at the end of Mark 6. Jesus has commanded his followers to get into a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida, while he climbs to the top of a mountain to pray. The text tells us that the wind was against the apostles and was blowing them off course. It says, “He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.”

I love the imagery of Jesus praying to the Father while he watches his disciples straining at the oars. They’re working with everything they have to accomplish what Jesus has called them to do, and they’re struggling. They can’t get there. No progress. No results. Just frustration. But the Lord is watching. He knows how much they’re working. He sees how hard they’re trying. And he’s talking to the Father about them. He’s interceding.

And then Jesus comes to them, walking on the lake. The end of verse 48 tells us that Jesus was “about to pass by them,” but when they saw him, the apostles thought he was a ghost.

That’s a strange verse, huh? Was Jesus trying to sneak by the disciples without being seen? Was he attempting to beat them to Bethsaida so he could welcome them to the shore with a smug, “What took you so long? Where have you been?” What does it mean that Jesus was “about to pass by them?”

At the end of Exodus 33, after God’s people had worshiped the golden calf in the wilderness, Moses pleads with God to forgive them and go with them to the Promised Land. Moses has been working really hard for the Lord and hasn’t seen any results. He’s seen only bad things, horrible things. Moses begs God to show him proof that he will be with them, to give him some assurance. “Show me your glory,” Moses says. And God responds, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name.” When he gives Moses instructions on what’s about to happen, he concludes with, “When my glory passes by…”

And he shows himself to Moses. God “passed” in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). God used that occasion to renew his covenant with Moses and his people, to lavish on them his love and forgiveness, to lead them on a path to their promised future.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is standing on a mountain complaining to God. Elijah had been working really hard for the Lord, only to find himself on Jezebel’s most wanted list. I’m the only one left, Elijah declares. I’m all alone. That’s when God said, “Stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11).

And God revealed himself to Elijah in a small, still voice. God told Elijah how many thousands of faithful people there were in the land and he promised to take care of Elijah’s enemies.

When Mark tells us Jesus was “about to pass by them,” he means Jesus was preparing to show the disciples his glory. He was about to reveal his true identity to them. The word “pass” in Mark 6 is the Greek translation of the word translated “pass” from the Hebrew in Exodus 33-34 and 1 Kings 19. When God passes by, he reveals his glory. People see God, they recognize God and what God is doing. That’s what happens on the lake with the disciples. Jesus climbed into the boat with them, miraculously calmed the winds, and amazed the apostles with his authority and his grace. Once they landed, Mark says the “people recognized Jesus.” They brought their sick to him and he healed them all. Throughout the villages, towns, and countryside, wherever he went, Jesus healed the people and made them whole. He revealed himself. He showed his glory. His power. His mercy. His love. The mission he came to accomplish. And the disciples “were completely amazed” (Mark 6:51).

Here at the Golf Course Road Church, the winds have been blowing in our faces for several years. The elements have been against us. The shepherds and ministers here, all the faithful members of this church, have been working incredibly hard around the clock, faithfully, trying with everything they have to accomplish what they believe God has called them to do. And it hasn’t always been good. Bad things have happened here, terrible things. Little progress. Few results. Lots of frustration. This GCR Church has been straining at the oars for a long time. But Jesus has been watching. And praying. He’s seen how hard everybody’s working here and he’s been talking to the Father about us the whole time.

And now our Lord Jesus is about to pass by. He is about to reveal himself to us. He is about to show us his glory. People are going to be healed here at GCR, they’re going to be made whole. We’re all going to experience our God’s mercy and grace, his love and his compassion, his forgiveness and new life. He never left us; he’s been here in the boat with us the whole time. And now we’re about to finally see it. His  glory. His power. His mission accomplished in and through GCR, throughout Midland, and around the world to his eternal glory and praise.

“Take courage,”Jesus says to his church at GCR. “It is I, don’t be afraid.”

I believe we’re all about to be completely amazed.



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