Certainly Wrong

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” That’s what Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft said in 2007. 

It’s a funny topic to research, the hilariously wrong predictions that some folks have made throughout the years. There’s a notoriously wrong assessment of Jesus that we find in the gospel of Mark where Jesus’ hometown rejects him as significant because they knew him for so long. We’ll be reading about that this Sunday as we explore Mark 6:1-6.

When the text tells us that the people of Nazareth were amazed at Jesus, the context makes it a negative reaction. The questions they ask indicate that they are suspicious of his training and ability to say and do what he has. What is the reason they give for being doubtful of his calling?

Why do you think his family and trade have any bearing on their evaluation of him? They were certain about who he was…but they were certainly wrong.

If we would have asked them why they rejected God’s kingdom, what do you think they would have answered?

What can we learn from the closed-minded way the people of Nazareth reacted to God’s unexpected kingdom? What would a godly open-mindedness look like to you?

These will be important and timely questions we’ll consider this Sunday. And it’s SURF N GRILL this Sunday…and FATHER’S DAY! If you haven’t been baptized and would like to be, sign up online!

The Kingdom at the End of the Rope

You know what the phrase “I’m at the end of my rope” means, right? It is a descriptive way of emphasizing that one is out of options, there’s nothing left to try. That’s a place most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. We work hard to make life predictable and secure.

The problem is, things go stupid. Sometimes so stupid it is beyond our grasp to fix things.

Try as we do, there is nothing that we can find in this world that will make us immune to the troubles of this broken world.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 5:21-43, and we’ll read about two different characters who are at the end of their ropes. It will be another Markian sandwich – something Mark is prone to do. We’ll find a story within a story.

As you read the text, try to list off all the ways in which the two characters who interact with Jesus are different from each other. For instance, one is a man, the other a woman. Keep in mind the purity code of the Mosaic Law as it concerned this woman. Remember how important the Synagogue was to Israelites in the 1st century.

Once you’ve got a good picture in your mind about how different these two are, start looking at what is the same about them? What is it that brings them to the same place?

What can that tell us about those times when we are at the end of our rope?

What is it that stops Jesus to ask who touched him? What do you think Jesus meant when he told the woman that her faith had made her well again? What does Jesus say to Jairus when the news comes about his daughter?

What does God seem to be looking for from us in our times of trouble? What does trusting God in difficult times look like to you?

Looking forward to digging into this on Sunday – hope to see you there!

Madman Across the Water

I know you’ve heard me mention this before, but I just need to reiterate just how good The Bible Project videos (and podcast) are. For this Sunday’s teaching, I really would encourage you to watch the whole series on spiritual beings – but especially the one concerning the satan and demons. It will serve as a perfect primer for our text.

We’re going to be reading about evil spiritual forces at work in an individual’s life in our text this week, Mark 5:1-20.

There is a lot of stuff in this text that the author assumes our familiarity with. I personally have a lot of questions that Scripture doesn’t give sufficient explanation for. The exchange between Jesus is very curious.

However, while details are ambiguous, the primary thrust of this event reveals Jesus’ authority over all spiritual forces, including ones that oppose him. Does there appear to be a struggle in this from Jesus’ perspective? What can we learn about the power of evil touching us when we are in Christ?

After the man was delivered, Jesus gave him a mission. What does that indicate about our own lives after Jesus has saved us? What sort of theological training do you suppose this man had? What message did Jesus send him out with? How can we apply his commission to our own lives?

Hope to see you Sunday!

Following Jesus

Bay County is made up of people who know just how much chaos a storm from the water can bring. Michael swept up on us suddenly and powerfully and left our world a wreck. That’s the nature of a storm like that – it is a bringer of chaos.

In our text this Sunday (Mark 4:35-41), Jesus and his disciples will face a sudden storm. While I believe this is an account of something that really happened, I also firmly believe that this event becomes a parable for us – a story that helps us see ourselves and Jesus more clearly. I believe this story helps us define what it means to follow Jesus.

In the story, Jesus tells the disciples to take him across the lake (of Galilee). That seems innocuous enough, except that in 1st Century Israel, that area was called the Decapolis, and was considered off-limits for pious Jews. According to Ray Vander Laan’s article on the Decapolis: “Apparently, the pagan practices of the people of the Decapolis and their anti-God values seemed to be continuations of the practices of the Canaanites, who used sexual perversions and even child sacrifice in their worship. It is probable that the people of Jesus’ day, who took their Scriptures seriously, viewed the Decapolis as very pagan.” 

What does Jesus’ intent on going across the lake indicate to us about how we will follow Jesus? Who are the people across the lake in your world?

When a storm comes up, it might have been easy for the disciples to assume that they were being punished by God for going to a place that was off-limits. Why would that be a wrong assumption? What does that tell us about the storms and chaos that effect us as we follow Jesus?

Why does Jesus rebuke the disciples? Do you believe they were wrong for being afraid? How can we understand what Jesus is looking for in our response to the trials of life?

It’s funny how the disciples go from fear to terror in this story. What is it that terrifies them? Why do you believe they are reacting this way? What, if any, experiences have you had with Jesus that have overwhelmed you because of his power?

We’ll be celebrating communion this Sunday as well – hope to see you there!

Do You or I or Anyone Know?

“Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grow. Do you, or I, or anyone know, how oats, peas, beans and barley grows?”

This Sunday we’ll be having our Surf-N-Grill Sunday – which means we will have a shorter than normal service, and then head down to St Andrews State Park for a beach day. The weather looks pretty good for that!

If you haven’t been baptized and would like to, you can still sign up online: Baptism Sign Up

We’ll also be continuing our study in Mark, reading 4:26-34 which contains two parables about seeds. I drew a coloring page for the kids to work on during our teaching – and it may give you something to talk about afterwards.

As you read the first parable in v 26-29, we should take our cues from the previous parable about what the seed stands for: the news of God’s kingdom advancing in this world. In this story, what does the emphasis seem to be on? What impact does human agency have in the growing of the crops? How would you correlate scattering seeds and gathering a harvest with our activity as the church? What lessons do you believe Jesus is intending to teach us with this imagery?

The second parable about the small mustard seed seems pretty straightforward. What would you say constitutes those seemingly insignificant ways in which God’s Kingdom grows in this world?

I’m looking forward to a family day at Eastgate! Hope to see you there!

Who Defines You?

One of my favorite types of humor is mistaken identity, like the Flight of the Conchords song above. The confusion and delightful misdirection as the mis-identified man tries to sort through the woman’s description of their relationship. I never get tired of that video. Mistaken identity like that can be fun – but usually when someone defines our identity improperly, it takes a heavy toll.

We’ll be reading about people mis-identifying Jesus in our text this week as we continue our study in Mark’s gospel. We’ll be reading 3:20-35, which will finish up the chapter.

In this section, Jesus’ family and the religious leaders from Jerusalem define Jesus as either crazy or demonic. The two groups of people who were most qualified to identify who Jesus is completely fail to do so.

This passage has a chiastic structure and is an example of Mark’s way of framing one episode with another…in other words, we will be enjoying a Markian sandwich this Sunday!

Here is how the text is structured:

verse 20  Crowd
verse 21  Family
verse 22  Scribes (accusation)
verses 23-27  The parable of plundering the satan’s possesions
verses 28-30  Scribes (warned about their accusation)
verse 31  Family
verse 32  Crowd

Why do you think Jesus’ family were so concerned about his behavior? Why do you suppose that they didn’t understand his mission? What do you think was motivating the religious leaders in their opposition to him? How significant do you think Jesus’ redefinition of family is in v35?

All of this will provide us with some insights about how we see ourselves and how it is that our own identity is defined.  Plus, we’ll have a talk about v28-30 and alleviate any unnecessary fears about the U.P.S. (un-pardonable sin). Hope to see you on Sunday!

The Risk of Love

Back in 1993 Meatloaf crooned a song that declared in it’s title “I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)”. Of course, people largely missed the point trying to speculate on what “that” was. The humor is the self-contradictory nature of the words – I’d do anything, but then a qualifier is added which nullifies the prior statement.

Um…is this a Bible study Rob?

Yes, it is. I’m getting to my topic. There is a risk that must be taken if we are really going to know and certainly if we are going to express love…real love…sacrificial love…God’s love. A risk that really doesn’t allow for prior qualifications or exceptions beforehand.

We’ll see that as a case in point in the section we’ll read in Mark’s gospel as we continue that study. We’ll be reading ch 3:7-19.

In this section Jesus has suddenly become very popular. It’s understandable, considering all that he is able to do and provide for people. In the narrative, Jesus and his disciples seem to be in danger of being crushed. There hardly seems to be any concern for Jesus, only what can be gained from Jesus. Yet Jesus continues serving the people as they come to him.

What risk can we see evident in the crowd’s treatment of Jesus? Did it seem to deter Jesus from a mission like this?

Why do you think Jesus ordered a getaway boat? What can we learn about love’s application from this?

Later on Jesus tags 12 guys to be his close disciples who will represent him to the world. I like how only three of them get nicknames. I wonder how the other guys felt when they were waiting for their nickname and it never got spoken. “My name’s Andrew but you can call me D-ROO!” “Shut up Andrew, it doesn’t count if you make it up yourself! We’re NOT calling you that!”

That’s some of the stuff I think about.

But, the one name that vividly jumps off the page is Judas. The name associated with treachery from that time forward. Why did Jesus choose him? Why did he allow him such close access? Those are great questions I hope to ask him someday. They go along with questions about why God even had a forbidden tree in the Garden. Maybe it has to do with the nature of real love.

What risk do we see that love takes when we look at this list of disciples? Jesus doesn’t seem to back away from the risks. What can that teach us about how we are called to express this Jesus kind of love? In what ways do we find ourselves challenged by these risks? How can we find the courage to take these risks for the Kingdom of God?

Hope to see you Sunday!