Make Your Mark – Part 16

Today is the last post in my series on Mark, I really hope that it has been a blessing to you. I trust that you have read along with me, and that God has revealed many things to you. I had planned to discuss a few topics in the next few posts, and then reading through this chapter, I realised that it was the perfect introduction.

Let’s take a look at 2 excerpts from Mark 16, which will set the scene for the next few posts. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead. I know that I often speak about faith and unbelief, but of late I have been confronted with some interesting questions, which show that people still don’t actually understand what I have been teaching, so I will address some new ‘angles’ on the topic of faith.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptised will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.

This is what Jesus told the disciples, and therefore us, to do after He left. Do we do this? Do you do this? You see we so often ask God to do stuff for us, without really thinking about who’s responsibility it is. Someone asked me if I thought that God could do anything that He wanted, and my answer was no. The person was shocked to hear my response, but I am fully prepared to explain why I make that statement. In fact when I do, I believe that it may fundamentally change the way that you minister to people.

So in preparation for the weeks to come, ask yourself these questions. Do you believe that God can do anything He wants? How do you balance faith and your circumstances? What is God’s responsibility, and what is ours?

You are probably going to find some of what I say controversial, but please have an open mind. As usual, I welcome other opinions, as long as you provide a scriptural argument, and not just ‘because I said so’. I look forward to the next few posts.

Until next week.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 15

Today I may need to eat a little humble pie, but many of you may also have to, as we take a look at Jesus’ crucifixion. We have probably heard this story many times, so I am not going to look at the obvious, but rather something that we don’t often consider. Jesus’ death and resurrection is probably the most important event ever, and there is so much to talk about, but I would like to talk about Jesus’ attitude. Let’s see if it matches ours.

Jesus is going through something really traumatic and scary. If you have ever seen The Passion movie, you will have an idea of what Jesus went through, although even that was not as gruesome as what actually happened. This chapter is rather condensed, showing all the way through from Jesus’ trial to His death, so it is easier to see how Jesus approached it. When He was accused, He didn’t defend Himself. Verse 5. Why do you think He did that? I’m not sure, but I would venture a guess that it was because He didn’t need to. Jesus had said everything that He needed to, that is why they were trying to kill Him in the first place, so He didn’t need to defend himself. The next thing that is quite evident throughout this passage is that most people seemed to mock Jesus. The priests wanted Him dead, Pilate didn’t take Him seriously, the soldiers mocked Him, the crowds mocked Him, even the others being crucified mocked Him. Jesus never defended Himself, he never answered or rebuked any of them. How would we have responded?

How do we respond? What happens when someone puts something on facebook that you disagree with? What happens if someone says something bad about you? Are you a people pleaser, or a God pleaser? People have said some really horrible things about me, and just about everyone posts and says things that are just not true biblically, and I often have to bite my tongue. I don’t always get it right, I often get sucked into arguments. Why? If I am honest, it is probably because I want to defend myself and my views. Jesus didn’t do it when they were killing Him, yet I feel the need to do it on social media. That is something I need to address. Now don’t get me wrong. There is a time to address theology, there is a time to speak the truth, and there is a time to ‘set people straight’. Jesus did all of that, so I am not knocking it. This is not an excuse to sit back and not speak the truth. I am talking about when people attack you for speaking the truth. I often get that, and I used to deal with each and every attack. I don’t any more. If people genuinely don’t understand, or they have misunderstood what I have said, then I will address it. There are those who understand, but just refuse to believe it. There are also those who are openly supporting the ‘opposition’. Entering a debate with them is going to go nowhere, so I don’t even bother.

There is a time to teach, a time to ‘set straight’ and a time to keep quiet. Do we know the difference? Do we know when to do what? I pray for wisdom to deal with these in the future, so that I can improve in this area. What about you? Do you have any words of wisdom? How do you deal with this, especially on social media? In the past years, we may not have known everyone’s opinion or what they think of us, where as we now have it right in our face. We need to have wisdom in dealing with these issues.

Until next week.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 14

So what can we learn from Mark 14? There is such a lot happening in the lead-up to Jesus’ crucifixion, and so much to learn, but I would like to focus on something that you may not have thought of before. Peter. Yes, this is a very trying time for Jesus, and there is plenty that we could focus on, but that is often spoken about. What we may not have thought about, is Peter’s part in this, and what we can learn from it. Peter often reminds me of me, loads of potential, keen to do what he can, but constantly seems to mess up. Enthusiasm, mixed with failure. Let’s take a look at what Peter is going through, and see if it rings a bell with us.

Take a look at verses 29 to 31. Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed the same. Peter is keen, confident and self assured. He can’t possibly believe that he would desert Jesus. Even after Jesus tells him that he will, he still says that he won’t. His mouth is writing cheques that he just can’t cash. Do you find yourself doing this? What I find amazing is that Jesus knows that he will deny him. Does Jesus love him any less? Does Jesus give up on him? No. Jesus has already named him ‘the rock’, even though Jesus knows what he will do. That I find amazing. Jesus doesn’t seemed phased at what will happen. Peter is the one who is upset by the fact that Jesus suggested that he would deny Him. It appears that us messing up is not as big a deal to Jesus, as the fear of it is to us. Interesting.

Have a look at verses 66 – 72. Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth. But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed. When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” But Peter denied it again. A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept. Have you ever failed this miserably? This is one of the things that I admire about Peter. Even after this happened, he still went on to be the cornerstone of the church. This is the same guy that walked down the street, and people were healed when his shadow passed them! Do you see the change that must have happened in Peter’s life? The same stubbornness which caused him to get upset when Jesus said that he would deny Him, also helped him to be determined enough to reach what Jesus wanted for him. How many of us would like to be where Peter ended up, but how many of the same people would give up if they went through what Peter went through? We want to reach the destination, but we don’t want to walk the route.

Jesus never gave up on Peter, He knew what he could achieve. Jesus has never, nor will He ever, give up on you. He knows what you can achieve. If Jesus doesn’t give up on us, why do we so often give up on ourselves? If you have messed up, like Peter did, rest assured that Jesus still loves you. He still wants you to continue, He still knows what you can achieve. Do you still believe that you can achieve what God has called you to? Learn from Peter’s life, and don’t give up. However badly you think you have messed up, it came as no surprise to Jesus, and He still called you.

Learn from Peter, never give up.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 13

Ah, end times. I knew that I would eventually have to write about this, but I must say that it is not my favourite topic. Now I know that it is a bit scary, and that is why I don’t like to dwell on it, but that is not really the point of it. It tells us about some horrible things that will happen, but the reason why it tells us about this, is to assure us of Jesus’ second coming. You see if the Bible didn’t warn us about these things, we may be tempted to start to doubt that Jesus is still coming. We might even start to doubt God. Have you ever heard anyone saying, “If there is a God, why does He let all of this bad stuff happen?”? I have, often. Let me point out a few points, and just calm us all down a bit.

Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ I have heard this verse quoted so many times, to speak out against so many preachers. Let’s make this clear, this refers to people who claim to be the Messiah, not those who teach. That is why Jesus tells us how He will come. At that time, after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. Here is what you can take home from that. If this doesn’t happen, then it is not the Messiah. Simple. If all of this does happen, I guarantee you that there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is Jesus. Just make sure that you are ready.

There are bits in this passage, that I would rather not dwell on, like this one. For there will be greater anguish in those days than at any time since God created the world. And it will never be so great again. This is not here to scare us, it is here to give us hope. Whatever happens, how ever bad it gets, God has not forgotten about us, He still loves us. Jesus is still coming back again. This is supposed to encourage us. Jesus is telling us this so that we will recognise the end times, and hopefully it will keep us ready for His return. What affect does it have on you? Does this inspire you to be ready, or does it just scare you? Here is Jesus’ reason for telling us this stuff. Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door.

There is one more point that I would like to make, please don’t listen to nutters who claim to know when the end of the world will happen. They don’t. However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. Not even Jesus knows the exact day that He will be coming back. Anyone who gives a date for Jesus’ return is at best a fool. Don’t listen to them. Does this mean that you should ignore Jesus’ return? No, just don’t believe people who give a date. We have some crazies out from time to time, giving exact days, just ignore them. So, if we don’t know the time and day, but we know that we are in (or at least approaching) the end times, what do we do? And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

Make sure that you are ready. Get on with what God has called you to do, make sure that He is Lord of your life. Have no regrets when He returns.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 12

Today’s chapter is one where I actually can take a break from the ‘whirlwind’ book of Mark, as it is one where there are lessons to learn, but nothing as exciting as the last few chapters. Having said that, it is the word of God, and there is always something valuable to learn. I have 3 points from this chapter, but all towards the end. The first few sections are all about the Pharisees trying to catch Jesus out, which just ends up showing them as sinful, which upsets them even more. Anyhow, here are the 3 points which I got out of today’s chapter.

Love is the most important commandment. There is much in the Bible about love, and Jesus leaves no doubt that it is important. Unfortunately we see very little about it today, and when we do hear about it, people generally get it wrong. Lust is not love. Sexual activity is often portrayed as love, this is in fact not true. It should be, but it is not. Acceptance is not love. This is a big issue. We are lead to believe that if we don’t accept people’s sin, we don’t love them. This is complete rubbish. The Bible actually says that if we don’t encourage people to stop sinning, we actually hate them. Leviticus 19 v 17. Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin. This pretty much says that if we don’t confront people on their sin, it means that we hate them. Wow. We’re told that if we accept sin, then #lovewins, however the Bible say that accepting sin means that #hatewins. I’ll leave you to ponder that now that I have let the worms out of the can.

Hypocritical teachers. This is something that Jesus pointed out, and we’re quick to point fingers at the Pharisees, but does this relate to any of us. Yes, it talks about teachers, but how do we all handle this? Do you say one thing and do another? Do we act ‘holier than thou’ at church, but lie, cheat and deceive at work during the week? I try and be the same person throughout. Christian people often think that I am a bit rough and blunt and my business associates think that I am a saint, but if I were in the same room as both of them, I would be as I usually am. I don’t act differently when I think people are watching. Even this blog, I try to be honest with where I am. If I post something here to teach you, and I don’t put it into practice, my wife will call me on it. It is good that she does that, because I don’t want to be a hypocrite. What do you do that could be hypocritical? Is there anything in your life that you need to be more consistent on, regardless of your present company? I’ll leave you to decide.

God wants our heart, not our money. This is an age old dispute. People say that God hates money, that He doesn’t love the rich, that it is a sin to have money. That is beyond complete nonsense. The thing is that God does want to see us blessed, and He wants to see us bless others. The reason why we are told to give, other than to bless others, is that God knows the hold that money can have on us. People often say that the rich love money, and the poor don’t, I beg to differ. If I had the money that Bill Gates has, I would have no issue giving away millions. If I had no money (which is closer to the truth), and God asked me to give just £50, how would that affect me? I find it harder to give, when I don’t have, than when I do. A little money is precious when it is all you have. That is why Jesus says what He does about the widow. “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on”. Jesus isn’t interested in getting our money, He is interested in us trusting Him. That is what this woman showed, and that is what He responded to. Do we trust God to this degree? I do try, and I am on a journey to do this more, but sometimes I struggle. How about you?

Until next week.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 11

Today I would like to share a verse with you which has changed my life, and is continuing to change my life on a daily basis. The reason why I want to do this today, is because this verse comes up in today’s chapter. This is not the only time that this is shown, in fact it is often taught, but it is one of the biggest misunderstanding in the Christian church today (in my opinion). This has been a revelation to me in recent years, but I am still trying to get my head around it completely, as it changes the way that you do just about everything. At least it should. I’ll get to that it in minute, but let’s first look at some other interesting points in this chapter.

The Pharisees. We love to look at them and think about how silly they were, always getting things wrong, but sometimes I think that we act more like them than we care to admit. When Jesus rides in on the donkey, all the people seem to love Him, singing His praises. Next thing we know, the Pharisees are planning to kill Jesus, so what went wrong? Now don’t get me wrong, the Pharisees may not have been singing Jesus’ praises, but there was definitely something that was the final straw. There was an event that pushed them over the edge. Jesus challenged them on money. Jesus does His table turning demonstration, which doesn’t really fit into our ‘meek and mild’ picture of Jesus. This scripture is often used to show how Jesus was ‘anti-wealth’, which is complete nonsense, Jesus is not anti-wealth. Jesus is anti the LOVE of money, in place of loving God. Jesus knows that we can only serve one master, and He wants to be the object of our worship. When the Pharisees were using God’s house as a place to make money off of His people, that upset Jesus. When Jesus challenged them on this, they couldn’t take it, so they planned to kill Him. Interesting. Maybe that is why the Bible talks so much about money. Maybe God realises how much it means to us, maybe that is why He addresses it. I’ll leave you to think about that.

So, this verse that will change your life. Jesus and the disciples were out and about, and rather hungry, and they come across a fig tree. The tree has no fruit as it is out of season, so Jesus curses the fig tree. A bit harsh I fear, but you’ll see where this is leading. The next morning they passed the fig tree again, and it was dead. Verses 21-25. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

Let me make it clear, the fig tree does not represent us. Jesus does not curse us if we don’t produce fruit. Jesus is telling us to curse the things in our life that don’t produce fruit. Illness (physical or mental), sin, anything else in or lives that don’t produce good fruit. Get rid of it. Now I understand that getting rid of sin, may be ‘easier’ than getting rid of illness, because we have more ‘control’ over that. Let’s take a look at what Jesus says, which is the verse that I was referring to. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. If you believe that you have received it, it will be yours. You already have it, but it isn’t yours yet. If you believe that you already have it, it will be yours. It sounds contradictory, but it is fact not. Allow me to explain. We already have the Holy Spirit living in us. We have all of the healing, deliverance and salvation that we could ever need. We may not experience it yet, because it is not yet ‘ours’, but we already have it. Jesus did what He needed to on the cross, He has provided everything, we just haven’t received it yet. Why? Because we don’t believe that we have it already. We are taught to see to believe, but Jesus tells us to believe to see. Here is how it will change your life. Next time you are praying and pleading with God to heal you or deliver you from something, how about looking at it from a different angle (the real one). You already have it. Believe that you already have it. Thank God for it. Release what Jesus has already done from within you. Receive in your body and mind, what Jesus has already provided in your new spirit. This changes how we do things, because we no longer have to wait for God to do something, but rather just release what Jesus has already done for us and receive it. We no longer have to wait to see if Jesus will give us the Christmas present that we want, we just have to open the present already sitting under the tree. It is easier to believe for something if we understand that we already have it.

I’ll chat more about this at some point, but think about it in the meantime.

Richard

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

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