Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Mark 7:27-30 - The Faith of a Gentile Woman

Mark 7:27-30
27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered and *said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

Message: The Faith of a Gentile Woman

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Preface: Jesus speaks to all the people, going beyond just the scribes, and declares clearly that when speaking of being clean, the key is what comes out of a person, not what is taken in. Jesus goes to the region of Tyre and Sido in an attempt to get away from ministry in Galilee for a time, perhaps in hopes of getting away from the crowds. But news of him is there as well and a woman appears to him requesting that an unclean spirit (demon) be removed from her daughter.

Mark mentions this Gentile woman who begs Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter. And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus had previously commissioned his disciples to go and preach, first to the children of Israel and then later, to go into all the world. This exchange with this woman seems odd to me as the words from the Syrophoenician woman were just begging him to cast a demon out of her daughter, so why the response about children by satisfied first. Commentators have said that Jesus' words referred to Israel (the children), the gospel (bread), and the Gentiles (dogs). Thus, he was implying that she was a dog, but it seems that his exchange was not necessarily to be taken seriously or rather his purpose in saying the words he did was to get the response that he did. But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” Thus, the woman had faith and believed that the dogs or Gentiles still had a claim to the gospel. So, what Jesus was doing was continuing to teach his disciples. He wanted them to see the value there is in all persons. Prejudices were obviously present. People shows favoritism for different classes of people and Jesus did not want his disciples to approach people in this way.

Jesus shows here that he is looking for faith. This woman responded with faith in stating that even those individuals who may not have been the primary audience for the gospel can benefit from it. But, I don't think Jesus is saying this. He is looking for faith. He is wanting people to show that they have the faith and whenever they do, he backs up the truck and gives them what they ask.

Verse 30 is interesting because the woman seems to have gone to Jesus without her daughter. And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left. Tabletalk records here these words --
Ultimately, the encounter is about the place of Jews and Gentiles in God’s kingdom. The children—the Jews—get presented the kingdom first, and afterward, the dogs—the Gentiles—hear of it as well. This Gentile woman recognized the propriety of that plan. She did not ask for first place but in faith believed that Christ was for her as well.
Summary - Jesus goes to the regions of Tyre and Sidon and upon his arrival, a woman comes to him (without her daughter by her side) asking Jesus to heal her daughter, possessed by a demon. Jesus uses the situation to teach his disciples that faith is what he is looking for in people, not heritage (i.e. a Jew or even a Gentile). The woman shows her faith and she is healed.

Promise: Jesus lavishes his grace upon us. He wants to see us acknowledge our faith in him.

Prayer: Lord, I have faith in you. I do. And yet sometimes the way I act in my life gives the idea that I don't. I believe you are the Creator of all. I believe that you have saved me. I have faith in you. When I pray, I believe that you will do what I ask. Keep me aligned with you each day. Keep me focused on you, believing that you will do what you said, what you say.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Mark 7:24-26 - Jesus Visits Tyre and Sidon

Mark 7:24-26
24 Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

Message: Jesus Visits Tyre and Sidon

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Preface: Jesus speaks to all the people, going beyond just the scribes, and declares clearly that when speaking of being clean, the key is what comes out of a person, not what is taken in. If the people want to know what defiles, it is what comes out of a person that matters most. Jesus, in a way, concludes the utter defilement of the heart by naming a list of these sins and repeats the idea that evil comes from within. While we stare at the outward, it is what is on the inside that matters most. 

Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. I am reminded in Scripture that lines like this denote considerable time. Jesus getting up from where he was an then going to the region of Tyre. The distance between Capernaum (Galilee region) and Tyre was 35 miles; between Capernaum and Sidon is closer to 50 miles. Thus, to walk this distances would most likely take about a week, unless the terrain was different or the route was different. But we don't know for sure that he went from one place to another or from one region to another. The regions of Tyre and Sidon had a history of being wicked cities, paganism and opposition to Jews. Yet, these places ended up being more friendly to Jesus.

And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it. This is description is unique to the Gospel of Mark, as it is told in Matthew's account. It seems to be an indication that Jesus wanted to avoid publicity. yet He could not escape notice. Christ's fame had spread from Galilee to this region. Perhaps Jesus went to this region for the sole purpose of wanting to get away from the crowds and retreat to a more heathen territory where he could achieve rest or perhaps engage in community with his disciples. I am not sure who was with him or what his motivation was in coming to the region of Tyre and Sidon, but it seems clear now that it wasn't necessarily to minister to any one specifically. Mark mentions that he went to a house (not sure who) and wanted no one to know of it. Although he knew someone, he hoped to be there anonymous, but word of him spread.

Therefore, after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. As I read these words and for a moment pretend that I don't know the words of Matthew, who provides a different type of detail from Mark's account, I look at what Mark emphasizes. She fell at His feet. Perhaps she had the feeling that only Jesus could do the healing. And yet, there are no words spoken and the description offered is her daughter had an unclean spirit and the woman kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. This woman's knowledge of Jesus was word of mouth. And from this account it is not apparent what she knew of Jesus other than that he could help her daughter.

For me, personally, as I read Mark's gospel account I sense that there is a sort of tension with Jesus in that people want to be healed and yet Jesus has first and foremost a mission of preaching repentance and belief. And it seems at times that even the healing exercises can at times lose track of this mission. After Jesus was baptized and declared his mission, he calls his first disciples, enters Capernaum and begins to speak things in the synagogue to show his authority and it hear we read then of him rebuking a spirit. But, the rebuke comes after his words that are spoken. The teaching and the command over unclean spirits made news of him spread (1:27-28). And then Jesus heals many more as people come to him but in verse 38 he wants to go us elsewhere, to other towns nearby, in order that I may preach, for that is what I came out for. A leper is cleansed, a paralytic is healed but each of those acts is still couched in speaking of his authority and forgiveness of sins. And so what Mark seems to be wanting to emphasize is Jesus and what he taught and yet very often what people wanted or what he highlighted was Jesus commanding evil spirits to leave or Jesus healing people of their diseases or raising a girl from the dead. But, all the while Jesus is sharing his message, unveiling his truth. He wants the message to shine.

Summary - Jesus seems to retreat to Tyre and Sidon, perhaps in hops of getting away from the crowds. But news of him is there as well and a woman appears to him requesting that an unclean spirit (demon) be removed from her daughter.

Promise: Despite our intended missions, we must be prepared for events that may temporarily take us off our intended path and approach them with the same calling that we have.

Prayer: Lord, continue to teach me from your Word. Lord, I have enjoyed getting to know Mark and his approach to you and your message of salvation. He shows your authority and your power and your way of forgiveness. Lord, everywhere people need to turn from sin and go towards belief in You, trusting in You completely. I pray that this happens in others, in me. I want to know you. And want to make you known.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Mark 7:20-23 - Evil in Heart

Mark 7:20-23

20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Message: Evil in Heart

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Preface: Jesus speaks to all the people, going beyond just the scribes, and declares clearly that when speaking of being clean, the key is what comes out of a person, not what is taken in. What is unneeded to the human body are thrown off and eliminated through waste. If the people want to know what defiles, it is what comes out of a person that matters most. Jesus is declaring this radical message over and over - the heart. We need to focus on the heart. 

Jesus is emphasizing that what comes into a man - be it drink or food, even eating with unclean hands is not what defiles a person, but rather that which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. There is a clear contrast here that he is emphasizing.The Pharisees and scribes questioned why the disciples were not maintaining the tradition of hand washing that was thought to render people clean. Ultimately, Christ explains that cleanliness is an interior matter. It is the state of one's heart that determines cleanliness for the heart is the origin of all uncleanness. Before any sinful deed can be committed, it is conceived in the heart. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts...All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man. 

God and man see people differently. This, to me, further emphasizes the radical nature in which Jesus came. I Samuel 16:7 says, But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” This verse reminds me of the way God has always been and therefore God sees in a way that man does not see. Naturally, we look at the outward and our prisons are set up because people have committed outward violations. The civil law is set up like this. But, God and Jesus go beyond the outward to the inner. This must be a difficult thing for society to comprehend for everywhere we are trained in the idea of the outward, but everyone God trains us on what is on the inside that matters most. 

Here sins are listed to clearly show their inner origins: fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. The first six in this list are acts that are seen outside of the flesh while the second six are attitudes behind the acts. 

First on the list is fornications. It is interesting for there is such a great power of sexual sin and sexual temptation that has been present in every culture of man. It was a problem 2,000 years ago and it is a problem today. The internet in the last 25 years has seen the proliferation of this sin. This is a sin that seeks to become more and more private.

Second is thefts. To be a thief is obviously abhorrent in society. But, for me, the acts of being a thief are changing. We most definitely grade this sin, in that taking a dollar versus $100 is seen a way different. With the advent of movies in the home came forth the issue of piracy. Even the internet and youtube made piracy of music more prevalent to the point that they had to figure out a way to make money on listening to music and now it has become the norm to listen in this manner. 

Third is murders. For me, personally, Roe v Wade in 1973 was the biggest change that occurred over the issue of murder for society accepted that murder of the fetus was warranted based upon a woman's choice. In the nineties, doctor assisted suicide started to appear as we looked at the other end of the spectrum, the elderly. Again, sin began to be disguised as warranted behavior. Society still today does not view either of these as murder. 

Fourth is adulteries. Adultery is not a new thing. It is a sexual sin practice that has been present for thousands of years. As a person that loves to watch old movies, adultery in the movies has always been present. There was a notion that if one was wealthy then they more easily could afford a mistress. The woman as an object of the man's desires crept more and more into people's thoughts and was then culminated with pornography being viewed as entertainment. 

Fifth is coveting. Coveting is a internal desire seen outwardly. Consumerism has made coveting a normal practice. The desire to have what your neighbor possesses is viewed as competition and moves us to be a strong business person. 

Sixth is wickedness. This is all kinds of wicked behavior. Thus, anything not covered previously is covered here. 

This is what we see and now Jesus focuses on what is on the inside. Deceit means lying, not telling the truth, deceptiveness, false witness. Lying can be pretending to be something we are not. Lying shows up in church all the time as people want to pretend to others that they are religious in order to get acceptance from society. 

Sensuality shows up in our behavior and speech. It is a dirty mind. Once again, society has made having a dirty mind being completely acceptable. Its amazing to think of the TV sitcoms and their attitudes and behaviors that made having a dirty mind comedic.  

Envy is to look with hate or to look with anger. 

Slander is to have abusive speech such as blasphemy. I went and saw a movie yesterday, one I should have avoided for the slander or abusive language that occurred in the movie, all under the disguise of laughter and entertainment was incredible and the most haunting thing was to witness children in the movie laughing at themes most likely they did not understand at all, but only laughed because their parents also laughed beside them. 

Pride is the feeling of being superior to others. And then foolishness, to be unthinking or senseless.

The issue that I'm seeing more and more is the normalizing of these sins in society. We don't think of these in a serious light because we have such a thirst for entertainment that we excuse these behaviors because they have made us laugh or enjoy life. 

Summary - Jesus, in a way, concludes the utter defilement of the heart by naming a list of these sins and repeats the idea that evil comes from within. While we stare at the outward, it is what is on the inside that matters most.  

Promise: Sin and holiness are fundamentally issues of the heart. Although holiness can be faked before men, God is never fooled. 

Prayer: Lord, I want to walk in holiness. I thank you for forgiving me of my sins and I'm embarrassed of how prevalent these sins continue to be in my life. I should know better. Thank you for the reminder and continue to clean me up, not only so that my witness is better but so that I can have peace with myself in life. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mark 7:14-19 - The Source of Defilement

Mark 7:14-19
14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 [If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”]
17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

Message: The Source of Defilement

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Preface: Jesus is confronting the Pharisees. While they are concerned Jesus is neglecting their traditions, Jesus is concerned with their heart and why they are doing what they are doing. Is it really motivated toward God and the things of faith or do we get sidetracked on doing things for God that we neglect the people God has placed in our lives? Do we get obsessed with ensuring that are right with God that we then neglect people?

After He called the crowd to Him again...Jesus shifts from only speaking to the Pharisees and resumes his talk to the crowd.  The people may have retreated a little as Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:" The words Jesus is about to speak are of utmost importance and apply to everyone present.

there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him - Here he seems to be saying that food or drink that may come into a man, these cannot defile a man. In a way, he is further emphasizing the words he said previously that eating food with unclean hands is not the serious issue here. Conversely, but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. Matthew Henry comments - "Our wicked thoughts and affections, words and actions, defile us, and these only." Paul speaks of this more clearly as well in Romans 2:29 saying, "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life." 

Jesus has been speaking to the scribes, but he turns his attention to all the people to emphasize these words, very clearly. He wants us all to understand these words that what comes from within, from the heart is what defines who we are. 

How often in life do we judge people harshly because of addictions they have fallen into, like taking in large amounts of alcohol or smoking substances. The drink or drug has possessed them, but these do not define the person. I too quickly judge people but I think Jesus is even saying here that what is strongest in people's lives is what comes out of them, not what they take in.  In these passages here in Mark 7, Jesus is offering a rather radical alternative to the obedience of keeping the laws of God and keeping the traditions of man and the obsession we get in our lives to being obedient to those things. He really wants us to look within and see that how we have trained our heart and it is our compassion toward others that mean the most in life. 

My atheist friend yesterday sent me a video of an atheist talk show, broadcast from Austin Texas. The host is a former baptist. He grew up in a religious family, even stated he received Jesus into his heart multiple times, contemplated full-time ministry, but in a quest to understand the atheistic way he became one and suddenly got thrust into the limelight of having his own talk show to defend atheism. The video my friend sent had excerpts, one after another, of the way in which this guy had sort of dethroned Christians calling into his show. It was appealing to my friend as it has this sense of conquering or putting people into their place. Often these call-in shows are a little staged so that the person calling in is sort of shamed. Whether that is the intent or not, it happens. And it happens on the Christian side as well. I've seen them before and even laughed at them when a Christian puts a non-Christian in their place and corrects their thinking, sort of shaming them in submission. 

There were a couple of calls that were very damning to the people calling in, showing that this atheist host's knowledge of scripture was somehow greater than the Christian calling in. One I remembered was the way Christians can often seemingly pick and choose the laws of God, extolling those that other Christians support like saying no to abortion, gay marriage, while ignoring other dietary laws and stoning laws. And the heathen or the non-Christian sits on the outside and wonders how Christians can do this, how can they saw they believe the Bible is inerrant and then pick and choose. The Christians responding on the call got flustered and the Atheist host clearly had the upper hand and knew what to say, confirming that the defense that "oh, those laws just don't apply anymore" was the answer he expected and helped to confirm that even Christians don't follow the Bible as it is set up. But, even as I think about this and I think about this particular passage of scripture here from Mark 7 and Jesus helping people see that while laws do serve a purpose we must be careful that they don't alienate people. It is the heart of each person we are concerned about. In this scenario, to me, we Christians do at times get too focused on rules and the non-Christians get too focused on following rules, but what Jesus is pointing out here is what matters most is what is within a person.

It's possible that the Mosaic law's dietary laws were given to Israel because God wanted them to live in a way that was distinct and separate from the surrounding nations. And having a different diet served as a clear reminder of this. Leviticus 11 speaks clearly about these rules, but at the end of the chapter clarifies that the uncleanness is focused on a time period, a day or so, until evening. Thus, infractions and the penalties associated with them lasted for a time period, a day or less. Thus a person was not unclean forever. 

Granted, it is sad that Christians sometimes do more harm than good in being a witness. There is a hard balance in life. It is complicated. It isn't as cut and dry as everyone wants to make it to be. We are in this world of us against them, dueling political parties, dueling agenda's, sports teams competing, everywhere is this idea of opposite ways. Granted, good and evil is another way of expressing this. But in this debate culture in which we live in now, sometimes the heart of the matter gets lost. My atheist friend that I've been speaking with for years is so focused on exposing the fallacy of faith that he misses the message, preferring to think that morality is self-defined. And Jesus clearly wants to share a different way of thinking with people. It's tragic that people miss it. They are so focused on what is wrong and right that they miss the message.  Jesus, here in the gospel of Mark is showing his power and authority and while he does this he shares a message that is indeed radical: inside/out, from the heart, our motivations. Jesus is asking us to get off the to-do lists of our faith and get focused on the relationship we have, one with another.  

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. In a way, this is saying, listen up. What Jesus has said is so important here. [I'd like to see a study on all those passages that have that phrase attached to them.]

Jesus is finished. He has said what he wanted to say, but the disciples are confused and rightly so, for Jesus' message is indeed radical. When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. This is our response when we don't understand something, we are to ask God. How often do we run instead to Christian authors, other people, counselors, friends - there is nothing wrong with that, but why don't we first start with God. James 1:5 says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God." Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6, "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." What Jesus says is intense, so when we don't understand, ask Him. 

Here is Jesus' response: And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” Here is the key understanding: the heart. Food from outside, dirty hands, wine, drink, drugs, food -- this is not what defiles us or makes us unclean or not pure. All of these things go into the stomach and then are eliminated (Granted, drugs can effect the mind as well). But the key here is the heart. 

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) states: "This agrees with all that has since been discovered of the process of digestion and of the support of life. The food taken into the stomach is by the gastric juice converted into a thick pulp called chyme. The nutritious part of this is conveyed into small vessels, and changed into a milky substance called "chyle." This is poured by the thoracic duct into the left subclavian vein and mingles with the blood, and conveys nutriment and support to all parts of the system. The useless parts of the food are thrown off."

Summary - Jesus speaks to all the people, going beyond just the scribes, and declares clearly that when speaking of being clean, the key is what comes out of a person, not what is taken in. What is unneeded to the human body are thrown off and eliminated through waste. If the people want to know what defiles, it is what comes out of a person that matters most. Jesus is declaring this radical message over and over - the heart. We need to focus on the heart. 

Promise: God is not primarily concerned about external matters; He is most concerned about our hearts. Yes, we need to be focused on doing the right things, but making sure we do them for the right reason - for the Glory of God.  

Prayer: O God, thank you for emphasizing to me the importance of this message, adding the words, if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. This is indeed a message that I need to hear and be reminded of. It is very clear. I need to focus on my heart and writing on it your Word so that out of my heart will come the things of your Holy Spirit. I want to emit you. Thank you for eliminating the waste in my life. Help me to not judge people because of what I see them drinking or taking in or eating but instead help me to focus on people and their motives and helping them see that from within is what matters most. Lord, I want to focus on what matters most. Remove the blindness present in so many. I so desire your people to exemplify you and live in a way that honors you. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Mark 7:9-13 - Making Void the Word of God

Mark 7:9-13
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

Message: Making Void the Word of God

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Preface - At the beginning of Chapter 7, Mark pauses a moment in his gospel to bring attention to the Pharisees and their attack on Jesus for doing things that are contrary to the laws and traditions they have followed. Jesus permits his disciples to eat without clean hands. Here, Jesus is speaking of the importance of a heart change. I don't think he is diminishing the importance of keeping oneself clean, but he is emphasizing that we all need to make sure that we don't get caught up in rules and outward appearances and forget the real issue: the motive of one's own heart.

As he speaks to the Pharisees, trying to get them to think about the heart, He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." Ouch. That hurts. But, this is the crux of what Jesus is communicating. The problem with these religious people is not just that they kept certain traditions, but they elevated them above the commandment of God. The commandment of God became almost secondary.

The rabbinic traditions are many, but they are not wild notions but rather further clarifications to situations that are not clearly expressed in the Bible, thus it is an attempt by man to further apply truth to all situations. I call this abiding by the oral law which is something very common in many religious groups. Purgatory is one of those oral laws, as well as exalting certain leaders of a faith as saints. These are ideas not mentioned in scripture and yet they are exalted to a level equal of scripture.

Here is an interesting example, taken from the pages of TableTalk on May 17, 2016:

Judaism’s system of kosher laws is a classic example. (Modern Judaism is based more on the traditions of the rabbis than on the Old Testament.) Exodus 23:19; 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21 all say, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Over time, the kosher law that milk and meat products should not be eaten together developed out of a desire to keep the commandments of these passages. After all, if one never puts meat and milk together, one will certainly never boil a young animal in its mother’s milk, even accidentally.
What the Jews did and just the Jews but many religions is develop a code of conduct based upon the law, providing more detailed requirements for keeping that law. There is a commandment in scripture that says, "Do not be unequally yoked." What I see from that is parents then defining that their children can never be around non-Christians as they are growing up. Or even the command to "train up a child in the way he should go" means that children need to be educated only in the home and not by the public school systems.

Now, the idea to only have your children date Christians or only be around those that are the opposite sex is not a problem in itself and yet we are also commanded to go into the world and preach the gospel, which means being around non-Christians is necessary. Thus, if one command leads to breaking another command, then there is a problem. 

And so, what Jesus does is more clearly offer an example of that which he is speaking, namely, the exalting of tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

The Corban rule was a practice of deferred giving. One could often simply say the word Corban and it inferred that something had been pledged to the temple or church. It allowed individuals to deed property or other gifts, then after they die, they become the property of the church. This is not a bad thing and speaks to the idea that when we die, we should be transferring our possessions to be used by the next generation. But the concern that Jesus brings up is that some people were neglecting their responsibilities to elders, their own father or mother. It was commonly understood that just as parents take care of their children, children take care of their parents later in life. Perhaps these parents had a monetary need or a need of property, but rather than caring for the parents and providing them what they need, they believe that since they have previously identified a material possession as Corban then it was obligated already. It was holding on to one law at the expense of another obligation.

I think church people have a tendency to do this, perhaps in more simplistic ways, feeling like they must hold to one obligation, like attending church, when maybe there is a person in need that they could minister to, but they don't, because they feel they must get to church. And do we also hold onto our possessions, for a rainy day, saving riches that we have purchased and set aside, rather than helping someone out now that needs it. We get obsessed with our personal retirements and protecting ourselves in the future when there are people with real needs that we could help now. Thus, we elevate our own personal needs or personal obligations over real needs the Spirit could be drawing us towards. 

Summary - Jesus is confronting the Pharisees. While they are concerned Jesus is neglecting their traditions, Jesus is concerned with their heart and why they are doing what they are doing. Is it really motivated toward God and the things of faith or do we get sidetracked on doing things for God that we neglect the people God has placed in our lives? Do we get obsessed with ensuring that are right with God that we then neglect people?

Promise: We too can be obsessed with good but optional things (like giving extra gifts to the temple) in a a way makes us break God's law, shifting our priorities from only to God to remembering its about God and the people he has placed in our lives.

Prayer: O Lord, my Lord, my King, the Only One. I do want to honor You. Help me to not sacrifice people that you have placed in my life because I somehow think that it is more important to worship You because I am concerned that if I don't then you will reject me. I need to listen to Your Spirit in my life at all times, being sensitive to areas that you have called me, being sensitive to the people that you have placed in my life. Help me Lord. I need your help and strength and leading.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Mark 7:5-8 - Prophetic and Apostolic Tradition

Mark 7:5-8
The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

Message: Prophetic and Apostolic Tradition

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Preface - In Mark 1:15 are the words from Jesus - The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel. Jesus initially calls a few to be his disciples and later expands it to 12. He will send out his disciples to speak this message of the kingdom of God. Along the way, Jesus performs many different types of miracles: physical healings, spiritual healings such as forgiveness, power over nature. There is the clear testimony of His power throughout these pages as He shares his message with the masses but also intimately with his disciples showing always his reliance on God and the power of God in people's lives. Jesus has become very popular in this area as many are coming to him to experience Him, to experience God. At the beginning of Chapter 7, Mark pauses a moment in his gospel to bring attention to the Pharisees and their attack on Jesus for doing things that are contrary to the laws and traditions they have followed. Jesus permits his disciples to eat without clean hands. 

As I saw in my reading at the beginning of Chapter 7, the Pharisees are following Jesus around, perhaps checking on him, but also disapproving of his actions. Mark mentions how one attack was related to not following traditions, not necessarily the Moses law, but traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation through the rabbi's. I think of faiths that have traditions like these, such as abstaining from caffeine or other types of abstinence issues. Thus, the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” Jesus uses this as an opportunity, hopefully to go beyond the mere act of washing one's hands prior to eating, which isn't a bad thing and something that is still encouraged to this day, to focus on the "why" of what we do. 


And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.

The concern by Jesus here is that the Pharisees are going to great lengths to purify themselves outwardly in hopes that this rituals would make themselves acceptable to God. If they kept enough rules, thus sacrificing one's own desires, then through the rule keeping they would be set apart as worth unto God. And this is chiefly what Jesus is counteracting in his message. Paul sums it up well in Romans 2:28-29 - A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Obviously, at this point Romans had not yet been written so Jesus brings us back to the words of Isaiah in 29:13 which conveys the same idea that simply speaking or doing something outward is not what Jesus is looking for, but rather a change of heart. 

In addition, the commandment of God comes to us from the written word of God. It is this word that we must hold onto....and nothing else. Nothing overrides the written word of God.

Summary - Jesus is speaking of the importance of a heart change. I don't think he is diminishing the importance of keeping oneself clean, but he is emphasizing that we all need to make sure that we don't get caught up in rules and outward appearances and forget the real issue is the motive of one's own heart.

Promise: We must not change Scripture to make it fit our man-made traditions.

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, help me to focus on what is on the inside. Yes, the outward matters and I knew my best to exemplify in my life the best in my obedience, but overall, I need to focus on the inside. This is where evil resides and can outpour evil onto my life. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jesus Calling: April 10

     Trust Me in every detail of your life. Nothing is random in My kingdom. Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good, to those who love Me. Instead of trying to analyze the intricacies of the pattern, focus your energy on trusting Me and thanking Me at all times. Nothing is wasted when you walk close to Me. Even your mistakes and sins can be recycled into something good, through My transforming grace.  
     While you were still living in darkness, I began to shine the Light of My Presence into your sin-stained life. Finally, I lifted you up out of the mire into My marvelous Light. Having sacrificed My very Life for you, I can be trusted in every facet of your life. 

Jeremiah 17:7
English Standard Version (ESV)

     “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
         whose trust is the Lord.

Verse Thoughts
I think of this often that I am to live and be all that I can be, trusting in God's statutes and following His ways, but in all my circumstances, I am to rest in His outcome for my life and all it's parts. He is sovereign and He will do what is best in me. I tend to grade those outcomes and decide if I like them, but I rather must trust Him.

Romans 8:28
Amplified
     We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

Verse Thoughts
I need to remember the context of this passage because "working together for good" is a thought that is based upon "present sufferings (v.18)", "frustration (v. 20)", "bondage (v. 21)", "groaning (v.22)", "wait patiently (v.25)", "our weakness (v.26)". Help me remember this Lord because I tend to think good is material wealth, happiness, career acclaim, but it seems to be more about the assurance that the finish line awaits as I go through present sufferings.

Psalm 40:2
ESV

     He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
         out of the miry bog,
     and set my feet upon a rock,
         making my steps secure.

I Peter 2:9
New King James Version
     But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 

My Prayer
Help me find reason and comfort in each moment of my day. I can give a timely word to people in need. I want to trust in You Lord. Help me to see that the mistakes I make, the anger, the impatience, can be used by you to transform me. Your grace is amazing. Thank You for lifting me up from the pit of destruction and setting my feet upon a rock and making my steps secure. Thank You for choosing me and making me holy and setting me a part to be Your special people. Lord, I praise You and praise You again. I once was blind, but now I see. And it's all because of You. 

Note: The devotion and scriptures are from author Sarah Young. If you haven't already, please purchase the book and support the author.