Monthly Archives: June 2016

Make Your Mark – Part 10

Today’s chapter starts off with a passage where Jesus addresses divorce. I have to be honest here and say that I am still not 100% clear on the issue of divorce. Jesus clearly shows that marriage is important to God, and that we should take every step to avoid divorce. Does this mean that there are no other reasons to get divorced but unfaithfulness, what about abuse? Does this mean that we shouldn’t attend marriages of divorcees? Does this mean that you are committing adultery if you remarry without a legitimate reason for divorcing? What is a legitimate reason? My honest answer… I don’t know. All I know is that Jesus doesn’t want us to get divorced, so I will do everything that I can to make my marriage work.

We then see a passage about a rich man, which I have seen many teachings about, but some very misinformed. Let’s take a look at a few points. The man approaches Jesus and asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus is immediately getting to the root of the problem when He asks, why the man calls Him ‘good’ if only God is good. You see Jesus realises that the man doesn’t believe that He is God, his faith is not in Jesus but in money. How do I know this? The next time the man addresses Jesus, he calls Him ‘teacher’, not ‘good teacher’. He took the ‘good’ out, because Jesus said that only God is good. Jesus tells him what to do, but when he says that he has done all of that, Jesus hits him with the one thing he couldn’t do. Part with his wealth. It wasn’t the money that Jesus was trying to get at, but the man’s faith in the money rather than Jesus.

I have heard people teach that Jesus doesn’t want you to have money, because it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God if you are rich, Jesus says otherwise. Yes, it is difficult for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom, but then Jesus says, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” He then also addresses the issue of Him ‘wanting us to be poor’. “Yes, and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution.” Let me make it clear, this is talking about THIS LIFE, not in heaven. God will bless us in this life for giving. If this man had given up his possessions, imagine how much more he would have received back! Jesus didn’t want him to give to get back, He wanted him to give because Jesus was Lord, and then he would have received 100 fold back. This is what Jesus is trying to tell us. The reason why we give is important, and if we do that, we will not be disappointed. Jesus also shows that we receive blessings and persecution. This shows me that when we read about ‘suffering for Jesus’ it is talking about persecution, not lack of provision. Yes, sometimes we give up stuff to follow God, but He always provides, but He never promises that we will be free from persecution. In fact we are almost promised it if we do things properly.

The last part of this chapter is another healing. Another time when someone follows Jesus, determined to receive his healing. This time the people actually tell him to be quiet, but he continues after Jesus, and receives his healing. Again, Jesus tells him that it was his faith that healed him. How urgent are you to receive your healing? Do you keep quiet when others tell you to, or are you determined to receive what Jesus earned for you on the cross? I for one will never be quiet about us being set free by Jesus, which includes healing. Keep believing, as it is your faith that will heal you, by the blood of Jesus.

Until next week.

Richard

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Make Your Mark – Part 9

There are some interesting things in today’s passage, some which I don’t fully understand why they happened, and some that stand against what we are often taught in churches today. Let’s take a look. The transfiguration is something which I don’t fully understand. Why did it need to happen? I have looked up some teachings on the topic, but most of them didn’t satisfy me, as they seemed pretty ‘wishy-washy’. Here is what I do know. The vision of Jesus was ‘dazzling white’. This is a hint of what we have become since accepting Jesus, this is a vision of the glory of God. This is the contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

We then move on to one of my favourite passages of scripture, one which I have taught on many times, and will do so again today. This is a passage of scripture that, when understood, could fly in the face of ‘common Christian beliefs’. The disciples are casting out demons and, next thing, they come up against one which they can’t get rid of. Now it is probably safe to say that most Christians either avoid deliverance at best, or completely deny that it can even be done. The disciples were leagues ahead of us – they were actually delivering people – but look at Jesus’ response when they couldn’t get it right once. Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Wow. If that was His reaction to them, what do you think that He would say to most of us today? When last did you even attempt to cast out a demon? I have done it on a few occasions, but if I am honest, I must say that I don’t do it as often as I should. Fear and unbelief seem to be the main issues, although we tend to find all kinds of excuses not to be obedient. In this story, it is unbelief that seems to be the culprit, as the boy’s father asks Jesus to help him overcome it. Most Christians believe that Jesus CAN heal people, and He CAN deliver people, but He doesn’t always do it. We then start to make excuses as to how Jesus is using it for our good. Here is the truth of the matter. The boy’s father asked Jesus if He could heal his son, here is Jesus’ response. “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Interesting. Do you believe? That seems to be the key here, faith. In fact, Jesus almost takes Himself out of the equation. Now don’t misunderstand me here, I am not saying we don’t need Jesus, I am saying that we can do this in the name of Jesus. In fact, later on in this chapter, Jesus even tells them not to stop others from acting ‘in the name of Jesus’. Most Christians get upset when people do miracles in Jesus’ name, as they say that we should just beg God until He does it. Where actually, Jesus reprimanded them when they couldn’t do it, and brought the boy to Him. See the difference? Without Jesus, we have no power. With Jesus, we have the power symbolised by the transfiguration. We need to have faith and act on that.

There is a warning in the middle of this chapter though. We need to be humble, like a little child, and not think that it is all down to us. I believe that Jesus taught this because the disciples were getting arrogant because of the power. You see they needed this lesson because they were walking in the authority. It is a fine line between walking in the authority and getting too big for your boots. The sad reality is that we don’t really need this lesson to humble ourselves, because we don’t walk in authority. We use this message to be humble, as an excuse not to do anything. How many times have you heard Christians say, “We are nothing, we can do nothing, it is all down to God and what He chooses to do.” Nope. God has given us the authority to act in His name, and He even gets upset when we pass the buck back to Him. Just never get so arrogant that you think that it is you who have earned the right, or that it has nothing to do with God. Do you understand? God’s power, our actions.

One last thing, which I have said before, but I will say again. “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.” I have heard it taught that some demons will only come out if you fast. This is not what Jesus was saying, if it was, then Jesus is a hypocrite. He didn’t pray or fast, He just told the demon to go. So what was Jesus saying? This was a lesson about unbelief. When you pray and fast, it helps you to remove unbelief, which makes your faith more effective. This is what causes the demon to go. Jesus already knew this, because He did pray and fast. If you would like to know more about this, please take a look at my series about unbelief.

Until next time.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 8

There is so much to learn here, so let’s get started. We start with Jesus feeding 4000 people with some loaves and fish. We’ve all heard this story, and we marvel at Jesus’ provision, but do we understand the part that we play? This is something which is particularly relevant in my life at the moment, as I learn to have faith in God for provision. It is not easy, and I don’t claim to be excelling in the area, but I do know the answer. Faith. Here it is again. If Jesus could just do what He wanted when He wanted without any input from us, why didn’t He just create fish and bread and pass it around? Could Jesus multiply, but not create? He created the world, so that is a bit of a stupid question. The question is, why involve us? He needs faith. You see there must have been a moment when the disciples thought, “What on earth is he going to do with this little bit of food?”. Yet they did what they were told, they brought what they had in faith. Whoever owned the food would have gladly given up what they had, because they had faith in Jesus. Once again, we see what Jesus can do when we have even the smallest amount of faith. Now some people accuse me of being too ‘us oriented’ and not focused on Jesus, because I keep going on about what we need to do. That is not true, we can do nothing without Jesus. I give the glory of every miracle I see, no matter how big or small, to God. The reason why I teach about what we need to do, is that we are the ones who need to change! It is no use telling Jesus what He did, He knows, we need to learn our part. My prayer for myself and you, is that we understand the power that God has deposited in us, and that we learn more and more how to release this power through faith and obedience.

We then see Jesus asked for a sign, by the Pharisees, and He denies them. I wonder where they had been up until now, because Jesus has done so much already. I’m sure there is a lesson there, but I’d like to move on to the next part, where they are crossing the lake. Here is a lesson where we all look at the disciples and utter the words, “How much unbelief can a person have?”. The disciples have just seen Jesus feed 5000 people, and then 4000 people with a little fish and bread, and now they are arguing because they don’t have enough bread. Unbelievable. Face palm of note. The problem is, how often do we do this? I have so many testimonies of God’s provision. I have been in much worse predicaments than I am now, and Jesus has never let me down. Why do I struggle to believe now? We tend to forget these things, don’t we? When we look at the disciples and think about how stupid they were, we need to think about ourselves here too. Now I am not condemning anyone, I’m just saying that we need to learn to believe. If we think about it logically, stress and worrying is a fruit of unbelief. If you believed 100% that Jesus would provide, why would you worry. I know as I write this that I need to sort myself out, because if I don’t, my wife is going to remind me of this next time I worry. Even the fact that I just wrote down ‘next time I worry’ as if I am expecting to worry. Do you see what I mean? It is a lack of faith. How much stress and anxiety could we get rid of if we trusted God completely? I need help with this just as much as you might. When I was reading this passage, I got a little uneasy reading verse 21, as I felt that Jesus was talking to me. “Don’t you understand yet?” Lord, please help us to trust in you completely, and never to let unbelief hold us back. Help us to exercise the faith that we have, and stand firm in Your Word.

Jesus then heals another blind man, this time with yet another twist. This time Jesus spits on his eyes, and asks him if he can see. The man can see, but not properly, so Jesus places His hands on the man’s eyes, and then he can see properly. Two things to learn here. You may not see a complete miracle first time – Don’t give up. Secondly, don’t lose faith when it doesn’t happen how you were expecting. Keep believing for a miracle, don’t give up and accept the acceptable, God wants His best for us.

I can talk about this for ages, but I want to move on to the final point for this post. Verse 33, Peter tries to reprimand Jesus for what He said, and Jesus says this to him. “Get away from me satan!
Now we know what Peter went on to do, and that Jesus hand picked him and loved him, so isn’t it a bit harsh to call him satan? No. Jesus wasn’t calling Peter satan, but He recognised satan’s voice speaking through Peter. Let me ask you this, how many times have you had well meaning Christians, speak unbelief into your life? I get it often. People try and calm me down, try and water down my theology or faith. They don’t do this because they don’t like me, but because they do, and they think that they are helping me. The devil won’t come out and lie outright, but he is a master at just slightly twisting scripture to take us off track. I often get well meaning Christians challenging me (in love), but they get it wrong, and end up speaking unbelief over me. I have sometimes thought about saying something like Jesus said, but can you imagine how upset people would get if you said that to them? Maybe I must just do it. Jesus understood how important it was, and it didn’t change His love for Peter, it just put satan in his place. Maybe I need to be less concerned about what people think, and more concerned about what the Holy Spirit is doing in my life.

I’ll leave you with that thought. Until next time.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 7

The book of Mark has been a bit of a roller-coaster, and today is no exception. Today we see how the Pharisees got it wrong, how Jesus seems to test someone’s faith, and I share some personal ideas, which you may or may not like. Here goes.

Let’s start with the first story. Jesus talks about food, but we as Christians don’t really have any ‘unclean’ foods (or at least I hope we don’t), so I’d like to take it one step further. Jesus says that they skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to their own tradition. Now does that sound more familiar in Christian circles? I have been into so many churches, where traditions, other beliefs, and political correctness outweigh the Word of God. When I hear of practices which I have not seen in the Bible, I ask people why they do that, and the answers are usually less than satisfying. “We’ve always done this”, “The priest or pastor told us to”, “This is regulation from the Government”. Now I am not adversed to doing things the way we have done it, or listening to our pastor or priest, or even obeying the Government, but when it differs from the Word of God, I will oppose it. The other side of this is ‘keeping the outside clean, while the inside rots’. Now I don’t believe that I have a ‘rotten inside’, because I am born again, and I have been made righteous by Jesus’ blood. Yes, I still sin, but I am no longer a sinner. When I was unsaved, any number of righteous acts, would not make me righteous. Now that I am born again, sin does not make me a sinner, I am forgiven. Having said this, sin still gives a foothold to the enemy, and we need to eradicate it. The problem is that most of us are often dishonest. How many times have you seen people who appear ‘holier than thou’ at church, and then you find out that they have been committing horrendous acts? I have seen it many times. Now I don’t believe that they weren’t saved, I just think that they should have spent more time removing the sin, than covering it up. They wanted to appear like they were doing the right thing to others, but surely actually doing it would have been better? The guilt of this when you are ‘caught out’ is immense. Trust me. I have lost two friends to suicide after people found out the truth. Don’t worry about what others think, get yourself right with God, and stop sinning for yourself.

I like the next story, of the woman who comes to ask Jesus to cast out a demon. Now my Bible’s study notes say that the point of this is to show that Jesus doesn’t need to be near the demon to cast it out. Yes, that is true, but I don’t think that is the point of this story. She asks Jesus to cast out a demon, and Jesus challenges her. “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” Wow, I wouldn’t imaging Jesus saying this. I like her response though, as did Jesus. “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.” Jesus then commends her answer, and casts out the demon. So what is this all about? Be honest, have you ever wished that you could be healed/prospered/delivered/saved but don’t think that you deserve it? I believe that Jesus was testing her, whether to see if she had faith or determination is up to you, but she passed. Now Jesus was talking about the Jews being His children, but we have now all been given that invitation. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you are a child of God. Why would you not deserve that which Jesus died for? Even the ‘dogs’ could get in on the action, why not you? We just need to believe and have faith that we will receive what Jesus did for us.

That leads me nicely to my final point. Now this is my thought, I am not stating this as fact. In fact, I would like to get your ideas on this too. Why did Jesus stick His fingers in the man’s ears, spit on His fingers and stick them on the guys tongue? If I tried that here, I’d be arrested in violation of health and safety rules. Maybe that is why Jesus took Him away from the people. Why do this? Here is my thought, again don’t get upset if you disagree, just comment and let me know what you think. I think that faith is needed to see a miracle. Go and look at every healing in the Bible. Something is done in faith. Either the person comes to Jesus in faith, stops crying in faith, says something in faith, persists in faith, or does an action if faith. Now this man wasn’t coming to Jesus, others asked Jesus to heal him. The man had not heard Jesus (assumed as he was deaf), the man could not speak in faith (assumed as he was mute), so some action of faith needed to be taken. Think of the other man who Jesus ordered to go and was his eyes after Jesus put the mud on them. That was an action of faith, to show that he believed what Jesus had said. This is the rule. This is how the Kingdom of God works, through faith. I think that Jesus couldn’t break His own rule, so He acted in faith when the man couldn’t. That is why He did what he did. What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Anyhow, what have we learned today. Know the Word, believe what Jesus has said, and have faith to receive and do what Jesus has provided and called us to do.

Amen.

Richard