Inside Out

One of the most common criticisms leveled at Christians and the church in general is that of hypocrisy. Religious playacting – speaking and putting on a show of one thing but living another. I think humanity’s genius for corruption is the reason any spiritual pursuit runs the risk of drifting into hypocrisy. I don’t think there’s a person on earth who isn’t guilty of it to at least some degree.

The commonality of hypocrisy isn’t an excuse for it though. Jesus spent a significant portion of his teaching time addressing the sin of religious hypocrisy. One of those times will be the subject of our study as we continue through the gospel of Mark, reading ch 7:1-23.

Another controversy with the Pharisees and religious leaders unfolds in our text. Why do you think the writer of Mark emphasizes that the issue in question was about traditions? What seems to carry more weight for the religious leaders, God’s word or their traditions about God’s word?

Traditions in and of themselves aren’t negative or bad. They can prove very helpful for remembering ones heritage and history. Why had they become a negative thing in this text? What traditions do we have at Eastgate? How do you feel or react when someone isn’t in step with our traditions? How can we keep traditions from becoming sacred in our thinking?

At the heart of this debate is the question of what is required to be one of God’s people. What do you think the Pharisees and Scribes thought was necessary? What does Jesus seem to think of their view?

Jesus finishes his address of purity and hypocrisy by exposing what the Old Testament purity laws were pointing to: the broken human condition. While Mark doesn’t state it in this section, based on everything Jesus says about the heart, what would constitute a cure for human corruption? How does the Good News tell us that is achieved?

It should be an interesting study – hope to see you there! Also – don’t forget The Great Big Water Balloon Fight of 2019 right after the service! Bring your own squirt-gun if you want, and a side dish to share if you can and we’ll provide the burgers and dogs! Also, you can get a free snow cone from Big Wave Snowballs! Come join the fun as we get refreshed on a hot, summer afternoon.

Powerful Compassion

I hope everyone has been having a good holiday weekend and that you find some time to rest as well! We’re going to be reading about Jesus and his disciples trying to get a break from their intense ministry schedule – only to find that rest isn’t that easy to come by. The team quickly find themselves in a situation that requires attending to – and in the account of events, we get a glimpse into the motivating force of God’s kingdom.

We’ll be reading Mark 6:30-44.

As the Jesus team arrives at their secluded spot, they find it’s over-run with a mass of uninvited people who are hoping to find some help. How do you think the disciples felt when they saw this massive group of people at the border of their rest area?

We are told how Jesus felt.

What word is used to describe Jesus’ response to these vulnerable people? ἐσπλαγχνίσθη is the word used to describe his reaction. Who have you felt those kinds of feelings for? What does this tell us about God’s heart towards all humanity?

Read Numbers 27:15-17 and Ezekiel 34:1-16 (take note of v11-13). What bearing do these Old Testament passages have on our text in Mark? Who would the “shepherds” be in Jesus’ time? Who would the “shepherds” be in our context today?

The disciples wanted to send this mass of uninvited people away, why? What is the difference between the disciple’s view of the problem and solution and Jesus’? Why do you think the difference is so great?

When the disciples take inventory of their supplies, they are woefully insufficient for this task. When they bring what little they have to Jesus, what happens? What, if any, significance do you find in the detail about all the left-overs?

Where is God calling you to submit whatever you have to Christ so that He can bless others? What does compassion look like in your interaction with others? What causes and interests do you have that are compatible with God’s compassion? What does God’s compassion look like at work in this world? What steps can we take to get in sync with God’s powerful compassion?

Looking forward to exploring this together this Sunday! Hope to see you there!

 

A Conscience Resisted

Whoops! I was sort of under the weather and forgot to update Wonderwhat! Sorry about that. This Sunday we’ll be reading a very intriguing story as we continue exploring the Gospel of Mark. We’ll be reading chapter 6:14-29.

The writer of Mark does something noteworthy in this section: he slows down the narrative. He even adds in some thoughts and motives for his characters. I suppose, for the first readers, this was all contemporary news and still scandalous enough to catch their ears. We certainly have no lack of love for political scandals and gossip about the famous in our day, why shouldn’t it be true of them?

This section tells the sordid account of how Herod Antipas executed, without trial or provocation, a religious leader who posed a political threat to him. When you word it like that, it does sound like a contemporary headline.

You’ll notice as you read the text that Jesus is not center stage in this section. Instead we have Harod Antipas, his current wife Herodias, her daughter and John the Baptist. There are a lot of issues being addressed in this story. Abuse of power. The importance of character for leaders. Political machinations. Commodification of women. Lust. Ego. Murder. I’m tellin’ ya’, this section is downright Shakespearean.

As you read the story, put yourself in the position of each of the characters. John was faithful to the cost of his life. Herod was intrigued but unyielding. Protective but controlling. Ultimately, he is backed into a corner where if he were to do the right thing it could cost him his reputation. Little did he know what his reputation would really be.

Track Herod’s interest, but refusal to heed what John had to say. What can we learn about the ramifications of ignoring God’s attempts to shape us? What is the reason given for Herod acquiescing to his step-daughter’s request? What areas of your personal reputation do you spend a lot of time protecting? What if God called you to do something that would diminish that reputation?

It could end up being a convicting study…a challenge towards yielding our hearts to God. Hope to see you then!

Your Life Comes with a Mission

“We’re on a mission from God” ~ Elwood Blues

It’s pretty amazing what a person with a sense of purpose can accomplish. It’s equally disheartening to witness a person with no sense of purpose. Nothing withers so tragically like a human soul. We are hard-wired as a species with a need for something to do.

When Jesus gathered his disciples, and later commissioned his church, it was all with a sense of purpose. A mission. I’m convinced we don’t fully grasp the power of the new life in Christ until we awaken to that sense of divine vocation.

We’re going to be looking at Jesus’ commission of the 12 disciples in our text this week, Mark 6:7-13.

As you read through the text, how would you describe the purpose of this mission? What did Jesus want his disciples to be doing? Our mission may not always involve casting out demons or seeing people healed physically – but what are those miracles a picture of? What other ways can we be opposing evil and promoting restoration in our world?

Why do you think Jesus put such restrictions on his disciples concerning what they could take on their journey? How would you describe these restrictions in one or two words? In what ways can we make our mission in this world more simple and humble?

Do you believe there is significance to Jesus sending them out in twos, if so, what is it? How have you found encouragement in your mission by talking to someone else?

Hope to see you Sunday!

 

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!

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!