Mark – Introduction; This is the Good News

This Sunday we will begin a new study in the Gospel of Mark. I am someone who believes that, as the church, it’s important to revisit the life and teachings of Jesus, just to be sure we’re tracking properly. The Gospel of mark is the shortest of the synoptic gospels, and according to surveys, the least popular of all of them. I think that’s a shame. Mark rocks, in my opinion.

As we begin this study, we’ll be reading chapter 1:1-8. Right off the bat, in the very first verse, we are confronted with several ideas which need to be explored. The Good News, Messiah and Son of God. We’ll be looking at the historic and religious contexts of those words – but let me suggest that to really get a good primer on the concept of Messiah, you can watch The Bible Project’s video on that subject: The Bible Project

How would you explain what the Good News about Jesus the Messiah is?

The writer of Mark wastes no time in getting us into the action. V2-3 introduces us to the expectations of Israel to set the stage. He quotes from Isaiah and Malachi passages that were meant to comfort the Jewish people who had gone into Babylonian exile that the Lord would return to his temple one day. God gave them a sign to look for – a messenger would come and prepare the way for the Lord’s appearance.

Why do you think it was important to connect John the Baptist with the promised sign? How can this encourage us about trusting God’s promises?

In v4-6 John is described, and he is one odd dude. He definitely didn’t follow the advice of today’s experts on how to attract people to your movement.

What does John’s dress, diet and location speak of to you? Why do you think people were so attracted to John’s message? What can we learn from that about our own ministry and church?

When John speaks in v7-8, he has a singular topic in view. Jesus. John is almost over-the-top in trying to pronounce the distinction and superiority of the coming Messiah.

In what ways can we follow his example? As we seek to minister God’s love to people, how can we keep our focus on Jesus without becoming self-depreciating? What do you believe John was describing when he said Jesus would baptize withe the Holy Spirit?

I’m really stoked to get back to posting in Wonderwhat! I’m looking forward to this study – I hope you’ll come to love Mark as much as I do! See you Sunday!

 

Good News People

“Today, the term evangelical is a loaded word in American culture, packed with a variety of contradictory meanings. The emotions it evokes in one person can be the polar opposite of how it affects someone else. What evangelical is supposed to mean—bringer of good news—is completely different from what it has come to mean for many in our society: judgmental, misogynist, bigoted, homophobic. How did this happen? How did the “good news” people come to be widely regarded as bad news?”

~Lance Ford,  Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be. Tyndale Momentum

This Sunday we’ll be reading a very famous passage from Romans as we continue our study of that book. We’ll be reading ch 10:14-21.

Paul, still sorting through the dilemma of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, puts forth a stair-step argument for how people actually receive Jesus as Messiah. His argument is in the form of questions again, and he starts with the desired goal of salvation (based on v13) and works backwards through the process. Before they can embrace God’s salvation, they have to believe. But in order to believe, they have to hear the offer. In order to hear, someone has to tell them the news, and so on.

There is no way around the usage here – the gospel has a message to be shared. The Good News is news. You might find the origins of the word we translate as “gospel” of interest – there is a famous inscription that reveals it’s usage outside of the church. If you read the translation, take note of how Augustus is described, and compare it to the first Christian description of Jesus.

Paul makes an assumption about who was sent to share that news. What does this tell us about our purpose as the church? He quotes Isaiah 52 which forecasts the day when Israel’s exile is over – and how beautiful even the feet of those will be who bring that good news. This clearly indicates to us, as the church, that we have some very good news to share with the people we are placed among. What is the good news, in your understanding? What does v17 indicate that the Good News is about? How can we see to it that we keep the main thing the main thing?

Hopefully this study will get us thinking and pointed in the right direction for how we, as a community of the Gospel, can bring light to the world in which we’ve been placed. I’m really excited about Sunday’s study.

 

Kingdom Come – the Gospel of Matthew

matt FB web

This Sunday we’ll be starting a new study in the gospel of Matthew! We’ll be reading all of chapter one. I’m pretty stoked about this as it’s my second time through this gospel. I know it can be a disappointing shock when you begin to read this story and realize it begins with a long genealogy. Not the exciting start we’d hoped for, but an important one for establishing Jesus’ claim as Messiah. The expected Messiah was most certainly supposed to be Jewish, and from the family line of King David. The list of names that Matthew provides establishes just that.

Now, pay attention to the names of the characters in this list. Look up Tamar and Judah. Do some research on Rahab and her occupation; Ruth and her origins. What event launched David and the mother of Solomon in thier relationship? Explore the lives of all those descendants of Solomon and look at the epitaph that they left behind, including Solomon himself. Does this look like a squeaky clean list of characters? Do you spy, with your little eye, any skeletons in Messiah’s closet? What does that tell us about God’s kingdom and who it chooses to work through? How can that combat any shameful past we may have?

V 21 and v23 give us names that declare mission and the nature of the mission of Messiah. What do those names mean to you personally?

Hey – the Bible Project has done a set of WONDERFUL introduction videos that lay out and explain the structure and emphasis of Matthew’s gospel. Please take the time to look at them in preparation for this study! Hope to see you Sunday!

A Love for Truth

 Last summer I was struggling with my weed-eater. I had come to the conclusion that the spool which held the string was old and faulty and needed to be replaced. I tore the whole assembly off the handle and ripped open the packaging on the replacement head and started trying to attach it to the trimmer. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my eyes as I tried and tried to align the new spool properly onto the shaft of the trimmer, but it just wouldn’t work. Then it dawned on me. I had the wrong replacement part. I had wasted hours and expended so much energy, only to realize I was trying to attach the wrong thing.

Ever been there? Hopefully not – I trust you’re smarter than I. There’s nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into something and realizing, too late, that it was all for naught.

That’s something John will be warning us about on a spiritual level as we finish out 2 John in our study called Truth or Consequences. We’ll be reading 2nd John 1:7-13.

John spent the first part of his letter encouraging us to live in love – then the last part of his letter seems to get a little harsh. How can we reconcile his defense of the gospel of Jesus and his challenge to be loving? Does loving others require us to abandon a claim to a singular truth? Why or why not?

What does John encourage us to “watch” in v8? What is his emphasis concerning how his warning is applied? How does that help us understand the balance of loving tolerance and holding the truth?

The deceptive doctrines he’s warning about are most likely ancient forms of “Christian Gnosticism” – it’s good to have a grasp of what his context was.

In the ancient world there were no motels or formal travel accommodations.  Traveling ministers could only spread their message by relying on the hospitality of local churches. They would be housed, fed and blessed – that is, encouraged. If those systems were removed, the teacher would not be able to continue spreading his views.  Given that context, how do we understand what John is telling us about letting false teachers into the home or blessing them?

This study will require some critical thinking on our part as we press some hard questions to the assumptions our present culture has made concerning love, tolerance and truth. Hope to see yez there!