CALLED (Naked Runner/ Lesson 2)

JesusBaptizedThe Gospel of Mark                              (memoirs of the naked runner)     Lesson 2  Pastor Barry Bruce

Good News Begins Mark 1:1-11,        Acts 2:38-41

Mark begins his “gospel” (lit. Greek = “good news”)  by calling Jesus both “Messiah” and “Son of God”. (“Messiah” is the Hebrew word for Anointed One and “Christ” is the Greek word meaning the same). Mark also identifies Jesus as “Lord” and “God” in quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3-5).  With this quote Mark also implies that John the    Baptist is the “voice of one calling in the wilderness” that reveals “the glory of the Lord” which “all people see together”. Likely the passage in Isaiah actually instructed John in what to say as he came down the mountain out of the wilderness and preached repentance to the people (see Isaiah 40:6-11). Mark also quotes the prophet Malachi: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me”.  He therefore identifies Jesus as “the messenger of the (new) covenant who will come to his temple” described in this same verse (Malachi 3:1).

 It had been 400 years since God had spoken to His people through a prophet when John came out of the wilderness!  “Good news” had been born into the world (Jesus) but John was sent to make it public. John’s introduction of this “good news” began with the words “Repent!” and without repentance no “good news” can exist for the sinner still.  For one to turn to Christ he must turn his back to the devil.  Repentance is sadly omitted in much preaching today in an effort to make the gospel more palatable (“seeker friendly”). The gospel is sometimes presented as though you can simply add the work of Jesus to your life as though you were just adding another ingredient.  Oil and water do not mix nor do the light of Christ and the darkness of this world view.  John proclaimed:”Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ” Matthew 3:8-10  

Good News” begins with repentance!

To “repent” means to “change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Acts 26:20b).  We are called to be separated from this world and set aside for God.  John exemplifies “separation” in a very dramatic way. Now we are not all called to wear a hairy garment, nor are we required to live in the desert and eat locusts and wild honey, but we are all called to “repent” and to be a unique people, to be distinct from the world. John knew how to stand alone, something we must all learn to do as we follow Christ. We must be ready to strip off our way of thinking to put on Jesus. The Apostle Peter proclaimed this truth in the book of Acts and then added that we would receive the gift of the Spirit when we did so (Acts 2:38). It is the Spirit that will help us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26), but we must desire to repent.

 To demonstrate how to begin this “good news” Jesus himself was baptized by John. The act of baptism symbolizes death to our past (as we go under the water) and resurrection (as we come up out of the water) into our new life in the Spirit (Romans 6:3-7).  Jesus, of course had no sin to strip off; however, he did strip off his earthly will in order to complete his mission of the cross. He would constantly need to submit to the Father’s will to carry out that plan (Luke 22:41-43).  At the moment of his baptism the Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove and God spoke His approval to Jesus that was heard by those gathered on the water’s edge. (The Trinity is revealed here). 

Tempted Mark 1:12-15, 1 John 2:15-17

No sooner was Jesus dried off from his baptism than the Spirit sent Him into the wilderness to fast and pray for the three year mission that He began that day.  The gospel of Matthew tells us that for these forty days Satan tempted Christ to 1.) break His fast by turning stone to bread, 2.) to throw Himself down from the Temple to prove that angels would catch Him and to 3.) bow down and worship Satan so that He might receive all the treasures of the world (Matthew 4:1-11).  Jesus prevailed over the temptations of the Devil not only by using scripture but by prayer and fasting (let us not forget that this is what He was doing there in the wilderness in order to ready Himself for God’s call). These temptations are the same ones Satan used to prevail against Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:6) and the same ones that the Apostle John warns us about in 1 John 3:16: The lust of the flesh (our appetites), The lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.  Matthew also tells us that “angels attended Jesus” but only after His resistance sent the Devil away.  Meanwhile, Mark matter-of-factly sates that John The Baptist was put into prison! He was later beheaded there by king Herod (Matthew 14:1-12).

Yes, “Good News” begins as we change our minds and follow God’s calling but we must know this: We will not move in God’s direction without a fight (Ephesians 6:12). Expect it!   We will be tempted by the Devil and He will want us dead, but Jesus said: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4) in His reference to the Holy Spirit who “helps us in all of our weaknesses”.  Our fight is sure but our victory is promised: But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

 For John who had finished his calling the “victory” was in going home to be with the Lord. This is the ultimate victory for all believers once we have successfully lived out the calling of God in our lives as well.

Follow Jesus and fight the Devil with prayer, fasting and scripture.  Beware of his three temptations…resist him and he will flee (James 4:7)! Stay faithful to God in all circumstances and believe in His promises: Romans 8:28

 Jesus Is Calling Mark 1:16-20, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Just as Jesus walked along the Sea Of Galilee and called out “Come and follow me” to Simon (Peter), his brother Andrew and later James and his brother John, so He calls us too.  He calls us into the spiritual adventure of knowing Him.  He calls us out of sin and death and into his kingdom and into His kingdom work too.  We are not to be about living for the things of this world.  We are not to merely be fishermen, but fishers of men.  We are called out to by God to be new and to reconcile others to Him too.  “At once” They left their nets, their father, and all they knew to follow Jesus and the “Good News” He offered.  They stripped off the old and put on the new…                how about you? 

EXPOSED! (Naked Runner/Lesson1)

Mark

The Gospel Of Mark (memoirs of the naked runner)  Lesson 1  Pastor Barry Bruce

Introduction to Mark 

The Gospel of Mark is likely the first of the four gospel accounts written because the   gospels of Matthew and Luke look so similar to it.  John’s gospel is much different in both style and content. Because of this agreement, these three gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels (syn = “together with”; optic = “Seeing”; thus “seeing together”).  Mark likely wrote his gospel between 50AD and 60AD, followed by the gospel of Matthew in that same time period.  Luke was likely written between 59AD-63AD and John likely wrote his gospel somewhere between 63AD and 70AD before the destruction of Jerusalem.  Liberal scholars would disagree with these timelines and date all of the books much later. They would also say that these books were all written by authors who were not eyewitnesses of the life of Christ. To me it is very unlikely that any of the gospel writers would not make any reference whatsoever to the horrendous fire in Rome (which burned for over a week) in 64AD, the death of Nero (the great killer of Christians) who bled out in 68AD or most notably the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70AD.  These were huge events to Christians and to anyone who would ever read these gospels. Therefore, I believe that all of the gospels and The Revelation were written at least before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, written by those who had the firsthand accounts of Jesus’ ministry.

The Gospel of Mark, therefore, was written by John Mark who was a close associate of the apostle Peter. Young Mark was likely a tag along to the disciples of Jesus and also the “young man” randomly referenced in Mark’s gospel that “fled naked, leaving his garment behind” when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52). We know from scripture that John Mark’s mother had a house in Jerusalem that served as a meeting place for believers (Acts 12:12). Mark also accompanied Paul and Barnabas in ministry (Acts 12:25) and also joined them as a “helper” on a missionary trip to Cyprus (Acts 13:5), but for some unknown reason deserted them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). John Mark’s desertion bothered Paul so much that he refused to take him on another mission trip.  This caused such a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that they split up.  Paul chose Silas as a new mission companion and Barnabas took his cousin John Mark with him back to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).  We can see later, in Paul’s own writing, that Mark regained favor with him. Paul wrote, “get Mark and bring him with you for he is helpful to me in my ministry”(2 Timothy 4:11). Mark likely wrote his gospel through notes he had taken from Peter’s sermons and also by interviewing Peter himself. The gospel was likely written in Rome and concluded sometime before Peter’s martyrdom there by Nero before 68AD. The first recipients of that gospel would have been the church in Rome.

The Naked Runner Mark 14:43-52

Today we begin Mark’s gospel near the end because chapter 14 is where I assume that Mark got his spiritual wake up call. Mark is the only gospel writer that includes this account of the “naked runner” and so I believe that we can establish that it is a cameo appearance of himself at the arrest of Jesus. He would have been both a “young man” at that time and also an “attendant” of Jesus and His disciples as the Greek word (“neaniskos” [neh-an-is-kos] = young man, youth, attendant) literally translates. Tradition holds that John Mark’s mother was a widow of exceptional wealth and a follower of Jesus. Tradition also says that it was the  upper room of her house that was used for the Last Supper and later the meeting room at Pentecost.  Her son, John Mark, would have likely attended Jesus and the disciples at that Passover meal and eagerly followed them after dinner to Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Luke’s gospel said that “Jesus went out ‘as usual’ to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).  Jesus and the disciples likely slept in a cave there “across the “Kidron Valley” where there was a “garden” (John 18:1).  Precisely where the Gospels suggest, there is a cave located near the garden at Gethsemane. There is no other competing cave in the vicinity. Jesus and his     disciples most likely did not lie down under the stars, but took shelter there during the cool spring nights. Archaeology shows that the cave, now called the Gethsemane Grotto ( Franciscans own and maintain the cave, adjacent to the Tomb of the Virgin, since 1361) once held an olive-oil-press and water cisterns. Evidence suggests that this warm cave is where the disciples fell asleep as Jesus prayed “a stone’s throw beyond them”(Luke 22:41) in the garden.

 Young John Mark likely brought his sleeping linen to stay the night.  The Greek word for that garment is (“Sindon” [sin-don] = a costly fine linen sheet or garment).  Apparently, tired from the walk from Jerusalem, Mark slipped out of his clothes and into his sheet with every intention to sleep despite Jesus’ instructions to “watch and pray”. Mark was likely wakened by the commotion at Jesus arrest quickly wrapped his sheet around him and came out of the cave to see what was happening.  A guard grabbed him and the naked runner fled for his life!

Exposed John 10:10

What are we to learn from Mark’s exposing experience? There have been many applications but chose three.  Which one exposes you: If the shoe (garment) fits then wear it!

1.) When we cozy ourselves into a deep sleep against the Lord’s command we may wake naked and afraid to the dreadful and humiliating consequences of our disobedience. Ephesians 5:14-19, 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 , Matthew 24: 42-44, Revelation 16:17

2.) The material garment (pleasures) of this world must be stripped off if we are to be free from the devil’s grasp! Hebrews 12:1-3, see story of Joseph : Genesis 39 , 1 Peter 5:8

3.) The fear, shame and nakedness that sin reveals is covered once and for all by Jesus Christ who gave Himself up as a ransom for all. 1 Timothy 2:6, John 3:16

 Mark’s experience at Jesus’ arrest was no doubt a spiritual wake up call for him in one way or another.  The rest of his life would be spent in serving Christ.  As we study Mark’s gospel we will also discover things we need to strip off or put on in order to follow Jesus more closely.  It is only then that we can truly know the blessings of the abundant life He promised.

Marches and Madness

MarchForLife2018

What a refreshment of faith it was to see the annual March For Life in Washington attended by the President of the United States this year.  The President expressed his support for the pro-life “March for Life” in a speech from the White House Rose Garden Friday, applauding what he called an “incredible movement” and thanking those in attendance for embodying the theme of the march: “Love saves lives.”  Thousands watched just a few blocks away on the National Mall as the President addressed the rally via a live video. (Former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush have also spoken at these rallies, but via recorded remarks or live phone calls.) Other speakers included Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Tim Tebow’s mother Pam, and   ex-NFL player Matt Birk and his wife Adriana. The speeches were all live streamed for people across the world to watch. After the speeches ended, protesters marched to the Supreme Court. The 45th annual march came just a week before the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling. Since 1973 there have been 60,069,971 estimated abortions in America.

No surprise that most news media outlets had nothing (or nothing good) to say about this march. Days after I still can’t find any solid commitments on the numbers that attended.  Estimates range from 50,000 to over 100,000. What did overshadow the event in the news was the government shut down which largely blamed the President…again. Oddly enough, the government shut down didn’t shut down the news on the second “Women’s” March that took place Saturday.  (“Women” is in quotes so that I don’t offend the millions of women who would not participate in such a hate-centered march where conservatives and pro-life supporters are purposely excluded.) Strangely, estimated numbers about this march abound in the news at 120,000+, and “others throughout the world!”

The news has become so one-sided and hateful these days that the only place that I can find positive information on our elected president and his administration is on FOX NEWS. I use to watch CNN, MSNBC, ALGEZERA and FOX in order to get a “balanced” view, since I know that no news media is perfectly balanced. I am tired of the constant whining and contempt shown towards this president who won fair and square. We have all endured the terms of many presidents that we didn’t vote for or like, but nonetheless accepted them as the president elected by the people.  Few of our presidents have been bastions of purity in character or speech but this one certainly gets kicked around more than any other in history. True, his digs and tweets keep providing fuel for the fire, but can’t we look beyond the flaws like we have with others and see both sides of the coin? Enough already with the “Russian Collusion” thing!  False accusations have now turned upon the accusers and degraded our FBI the DOJ and our whole system of justice. The #MeToo movement is also a growing circus which attracts unlimited clowns.  Who can know which women are telling the truth and which ones are just being paid to tell lies? When people are tried and convicted in social media only stupidity is the ringmaster. Why should we believe every woman who boldly steps up to say they were sexually harassed after 5, 10, 20, or 30 years has passed?  Is “Me Too” just another pop culture thing to belong to or is it a legitimate movement? I can’t see the forest for the trees!  I’m not saying that there are not some sick and twisted men out there who take advantage of women, but I’m not ready to say that there are no sick and twisted women out there who take advantage of men either. In fact I know of some firsthand. I also know of both men and women who once acted and talked like sex was a sport and now, with growth and maturity, think and act more sensibly. I do hope that America can get to such a place.

Back to the marches… We live in America where anyone can march for whatever they want. People can say whatever they want and do whatever they want. They can also write and promote anything they want.  This is what some say makes America great.  Looking closely I think we can also see the downside of such a philosophy.  I want to march to the beat of a different drummer, in fact, I heard an old song by the Imperials the other day that says it perfectly.  The chorus says:

 I listen to the Trumpet of Jesus
While the world hears a different sound
I march to the drumbeat of God Almighty
While the others just wander around
I’m a member of the Holy Ghost traveling band
We’re moving on up to a better land
I hear the voice of the Supernatural singing
Like only those who know Him can

Trumpet of Jesus by Russ Taft/ Imperials: Priority

The march can only be as good as the leader and the news can only be as true and good as the author. Come Lord Jesus, come.

HOLY or full of holes?

LeakyBucket

Eastern Stars? Philippians 2:15-16, Romans 13:11-14.

Last week I ended our short series on Epiphany with a challenge for you to be the “Eastern Stars” of the modern day.  That is, leading people to Jesus as that Bethlehem Star did for the Magi so long ago.  Jesus put it this way: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 KJV). If we are to be “shining stars” then we must often do some serious self reflection. We must ask ourselves:  According to our actions what exactly are we shining light on?  

We live in a dark world, full of lies, self-centeredness, hate and confusion. But God’s Word tells us to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”(Romans 13:12 NASB). While others are chasing after physical pleasures and selfish gain, we’re commanded to live a different way—to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14 NASB).

The Holy War 1 Peter 1:14-16  The apostle, Peter, said it this way:  

”As obedient children, do not conform to the evil  desires you had when you lived in   ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16, Leviticus 19:2).

 Many view “holiness” as an outdated term. This is due in part to the tolerance trend sweeping the churches. No one wants to label someone or something “holy” because it might make someone feel excluded, judged, or cause one not to fit in with the “new church” or their old friends. But holiness is not an option for the Christian.  It is a       command according to God’s word. It is also a “war word” according to the passage in     Romans that we read earlier.  “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12  Note: only a soldier puts on armor and only when going to war!  Can’t you just feel the clash between your fleshly desires and God’s command at the sheer mention of the word?  Satan wants you to hate that word and all of its implications.

The primary Old Testament word for holiness means ‘to cut or to separate.’ basically,holiness is a cutting off or separation from what is unclean, and a declaration of what is pure.” In the New Testament the word for holy, hagios, is the same root word for saint and sanctified. God states that He is Holy and clearly declares what is holy and what is not in His word (the Bible). To be Holy is to be set aside for God’s use.

“God doesn’t seek for golden vessels, and does not ask for silver ones, but He must have clean ones.” Dwight L. Moody

 Living Water John 7:37-39

A star in space is fueled by atomic gas.  If we are to be those “holy”(set apart) shinning stars that God intends us to be we must be fueled by “living water”. In the passage above, Jesus cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ This “living  water” that Jesus was speaking of is the fuel of our holiness!  This is the Holy Spirit working in the believer to make us shine as true lights to the Savior.  The passage goes on to make a reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit did not come until Jesus finished His work on the cross and ascended into Heaven (John 16:7).  The Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ in every believer.  We cannot be holy without Christ.  We cannot be a witness of Christ without His Spirit.  It is not by our might, it is not by our power, but by the Spirit of the Lord (Zechariah 4:6). That is how God built the Temple in the Old Testament and that is how God builds you and me into a holy burning witness for Him today. This is why holiness is not an option for the believer in Christ, but a command!  He is holy, so if He is in us then we must be   holy too.  To resist being holy is to resist Christ in you.

Holes Ephesians 4:17-24

Holes…we have seven of them on our head.  What goes into them and what comes out of them has everything to do with holiness!  We are fooling ourselves when we make excuses for the leaks in those holes. The eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22) what goes into it either pollutes or inspires holiness, likewise the ears.  They were made to hear what the Spirit says (Revelation 2:29).  When we fill them with filth we cannot have a clean mind. The apostle James calls the tongue in our mouth “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).  James goes on to say “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 3:8).  God made our tongue to praise Him and to share His goodness.  He also made our mouth to as a gateway to   nourish our body and not to pollute our mind and body with intoxicants. The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).  If our very breath and salvation comes from the Lord then should we not make every effort to be holy as He intends?

The apostle Paul exhorts Christians to be holy and not full of holes!

1.)  We are instructed as Christians to no longer live in the futility of our own thinking.  When we find ourselves resisting holiness, we need to remember where our own stinking thinking has taken us before. Do we really want to go back to that place?  2.)  We are warned against hardening our hearts and losing all sensitivity to the things God teaches us in His word.  We must remember that the grace of God is not a license to sin against Him (Romans 6:1-2).  “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  (1 John 3:6-9)  3.) We are instructed to put off the old self and put on the new self who is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  We are made new in Christ to reconcile others to Him (SHINE!)  2 Corinthians 5:17-18

 Evangelist, D L Moody was once asked why he urged Christians to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit. “Well,” he said, “I need a continual infilling because I leak!” He pointed to a water tank which had sprung a leak. “I’m like that!” he said. It’s a fact that living in this sinful world we do need to be replenished by the Spirit, but it is our responsibility to seek that filling for the fuel we need to burn bright as a true witness for Christ. Be holy my friends, because God is!

What Ever Happened To The Magi

magi1

Wise Men and God’s Offer to All  John 1:1-9-14

The so called “wise men” were not really wise at all in God’s eyes.  They were only wise in the eyes of the pagans in the East.  They were Magi—astrologers, occultists who practiced and  studied the very things that God prohibits in his word: Deuteronomy 18:10-14.  None-the- less, God enticed them to follow a star (which they were eager to do) to lead them to the promised Messiah of the Jews that would eventually bring salvation to them and to anyone who would receive Him. John’s gospel beautifully explains, in condensed form, the coming of Jesus into this world, his rejection by the Jews and the world, and His offer to “all” who would believe in His name.  In one paragraph John explains the offer of God extended to all mankind, which is How to become children of God born by God.  The story of the Magi illustrates three things to us:

 

1.) God offers salvation to anyone (Near or far and physically or spiritually)  who will come and get it!

2.) God will bring them by any means necessary in order to get them to Himself.

3.) If we seek God we will find Him just as He promises. Matthew 7:7-8

What Happened to the Magi? Matthew 7:6-11

Have you ever wondered what happened to the Magi after they traveled so far, saw Jesus, delivered their gifts, outwitted Herod and went home another route (Matthew 2:12)? The Bible never speaks of them again, but what can we infer from their actions?  We can be sure that when God led the Magi to Himself that He did not give what was sacred to dogs. He did not cast His pearls before swine. They did everything that Jesus later instructed in Matthew 7:6-1 to find the truth.  They both asked God for direction and they  sought after Him.  

His promise for such a seeker is “good gifts” according to Matthew 7:11b.  We can also clearly understand through the gospel account that the Magi bowed down and worshipped Jesus according to Matthew 2:11a.  This means that they humbly acknowledged Him as deity (God). 

What do you think those Magi did when they got home?  Do you think they continued following the occult and the ways of magic or did they study more diligently the sacred scrolls of the Old Testament that prophesied about Jesus?  Do you think they kept their trip to themselves or did they tell their family, friends and anyone else who would listen? Do you think they forgot all about Jesus or do you think perhaps their sons or others they told later inquired about the ministry of Jesus, his death and miraculous resurrection?  In my mind there is no doubt that these Magi did indeed become wise men who made their people ready to hear the gospel of Christ that would later come to them through Jesus’ disciples.  

Christianity arrived in Iran during the Parthian (Ashkanian) period. In the first century AD, it is mentioned that on “the Day of Pentecost there were at Jerusalem “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia”(Acts 2:9). Early Christian records mention that Peter and Thomas preached the Gospel to the Parthians and men such as Thaddaeus and Bartholomew evangelized the races of Mesopotamia and Persia. Syriac documents also indicate that towards the beginning of the third century the Christians in the Persian territories had some three hundred and sixty churches, and many martyrs. I think that we can assume rightfully that the Magi brought the first word of Christ to their people.

 Taking It To Others Romans 10:14, Philippians 2:15

Who is bringing Christ to your people? Your children, your grand children, your friends and co-workers?  How then can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? Romans 10:14  The early Magi of Babylon likely passed down what they learned from the prophet Daniel who was a Jewish captive in Babylon, and a dedicated servant of God, hundreds of years before that Star shined on the Magi at Jesus’ birth. He was the first witness in Persia that eventually brought the salvation of Christ to millions there.

Have you asked God for direction and sought after Him? Has He given you “good gifts” as He promised?  Have you humbly offered the gift of your worship to Jesus?  When God spoke to you did you take another route home?  Did you repent (turn and go another way)?  What have you done since that day? Are you taking Christ to others?  Are you shinning like that Bethlehem star?  Are you behaving like wise men and women?  Are you living a godly  example like Daniel?  The great preacher D.L. Moody once said: “Out of one hundred men, one will read the Bible, the other ninety-nine will read the Christian.”  What is written on the pages of your life?

 

 

The above teaching was the second in a two part series on Epiphany (The celebration of Three Kings Day) given by Pastor Barry at The Gathering Church.