GOSPEL OF MARK – JESUS SOLUTIONS

If Jesus is the answer – what’s the question? The questions are: how do you solve poverty; how do you solve health problems; how do you solve conflict in society and injustice? In a nutshell, how do you ensure that people live in harmony with one another, with nature, and with God?

Mark 1:29-31 (NIV) says: “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”

Note that in those times 2000 years ago, a fever could easily kill a person, especially an elderly person; but here is Jesus in Capernaum, in Peter’s house, without hesitation, without charge, in an instant, healing Peter’s mother-in-law.

Mark 1:32-34 (NIV) continues: “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

Wow, this is amazing! The whole town of Capernaum gathered at the door of Peter’s house – and Jesus healed many with various diseases – at no charge, no expensive medications, no sleeping in the hospital. Healing at the speed of his touch, answers and solutions to pain and suffering.

Jesus is the answer because his solutions are free; his solutions don’t depend on earthly material; he is able to tap into power from the open heavens. When we take medicines to get well, it solves one problem and create another; when Jesus heals, it is perfect! Jesus solution has no negative side; in our problem world today, we need the Jesus answer, we need the Jesus solution.

Father in heaven, the world seems to be on fire; we solve one fire and ten more appear; we need Jesus solutions, help us O Lord, Amen!

GOSPEL OF MARK – JESUS THE ANSWER

Image credit: AudreyFerguson

If Jesus is the answer – what is the question? The gospel of Mark starts with a quotation from the book of Isaiah, about God sending John the Baptist before Jesus (Mark 1:1-3). Mark starts his gospel by letting us know that Israel was expecting a savior as prophesied in the Old Testament.

The savior’s mission was stated in Isaiah 61:1-3 (The Message Bible): “The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace – a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies – and to comfort all who mourn…”

The Old Testament prophets, preached against corruption, evil, and injustice. They preached that these problems in society come from the hearts of men and women. Thus the answer was to provide relief for people who are suffering, and most importantly transform our hearts from seeking to do evil to seeking to do good.

Thus in Mark 1:14-15 (The Message Bible) we read: “After John [the Baptist] was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.””

Jesus starts his preaching, by announcing “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here” – to Israel; they had heard John the Baptist preach that the savior is coming, now Jesus is saying I am the awaited savior, I am the answer to all your problems. Next week we will see how Jesus went about proving to all that he is the answer!

Lord God, show us how Jesus answers to our deepest needs, Amen!

GOSPEL OF MARK – THE OPENED HEAVENS 2

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In the beginning, God created heaven and earth; and planted a garden in Eden, which was the home of Adam and Eve. The garden was heaven on earth; Adam and Eve had all they needed in there, including times of fellowship with God.

Genesis 3:8-9 (The Message Bible) says: “When they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. God called to the Man: “Where are you?””

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve decided to follow their own will, in a direction clearly against God’s will. The implication was that they were not satisfied with God; they lost heaven, and had to live on what they could produce by their own effort. Heaven was closed until Jesus was baptized and started his mission in Israel.

Mark 1:9-13 (The Message Bible) (shortened) says: “…Jesus… was baptized by John… The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit… come down on him… At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan…”

Adam and Eve had an open heaven, Jesus had an open heaven; Adam and Eve were in a pleasant garden with everything; Jesus was led into a wilderness without food; they were all tempted to follow their own will. Adam and Eve with eyes wide open rejected God; Jesus says “The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me…” (John 4:34) (The Message Bible).

Today, we live under the opened heavens; God is back ‘strolling’ on earth, calling the children of Adam and Eve – “where are you?”

Our Father in heaven, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven; for thine is the kingdom, all power, and all glory, Amen!

GOSPEL OF MARK – THE OPENED HEAVENS

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In Genesis, Adam and Eve lived in God’s garden, where God would visit them from time to time. There was no barrier between the human and the divine. When Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be like God, they were packed out of God’s garden to go and build a life on their own strength.

Genesis 3:24 says (NLT): “After sending them out [Adam and Eve], the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Adam and Eve initially lived in heaven on earth, a place where all their needs were provided for. When they chose to live independent of God, heaven closed its doors, and put a mighty cherubim, an angelic guard, to keep it closed. Heaven remain closed, till when Jesus came down to open the way again. The gospel of Mark records two unique events that point to an opened heavens today.

In Mark 1:9-10 (NIV) we read: “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”

At the crucifixion in Mark 15:37-38 (NIV) we read: “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

At Jesus baptism when he started his mission, heaven opened up, but this was witnessed by a few. When Jesus completed his mission, the curtain in the temple that separated the seat of God from the people, was ‘torn in two from top to bottom‘ – the opened heavens was announced to the whole world. Next week we will look at the implication of the opened heavens for you and me.

Lord, open our eyes to see that Eden has opened up again, Amen!

JESUS AND GENEROSITY TO THE POOR

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“The poor you will always have with you” – is a saying from Jesus in Mark 14:7 and John 12:8. It is part of the story where Mary poured nard oil on Jesus, and in response Judas said this expensive perfume should have been sold to help the poor; John 12:6 says Judas the team treasurer, did not really care about the poor, he wanted the money because he was stealing some of it for his own personal use.

What did Jesus mean, when he said the poor you will always have with you? Should this make us less concerned about the poor? Jesus was compassionate to harassed and helpless people, and was on a mission to represent the love of God to all humanity. Why then did he say ‘the poor you will always have with you’?

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NIV)(shortened) says: “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites… do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them… do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing… Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart… There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Israel already had clear divine principles on how to care for the poor – those who have should give generously to the poor. While it looks like Jesus just made a simple response to Judas, in reality he was quoting from Deuteronomy, to remind Judas of the divine solution to the poverty problem.

God’s solution to never ending poverty, is never ending generosity! The poor will always be with us, so too those who have a little more than enough will also always be with us – and they have been called upon to be openhanded, not to be hardhearted or tightfisted, to be openhanded and generous to the poor.

Lord, convict us to be generous to the poor in our community, Amen!

JESUS AND HARASSED HELPLESS PEOPLE

Matthew 9:36 (Image: HisGraceMinistriesDubai)

How do we live out our faith in the world today? A Christian political activist might say it is to join a protest against a cultural practice that makes you angry, because every citizen has a right to express their political opinion; but is this where our practical living for the faith ends? Is there more we could do?

How did Jesus live out his faith when he preached in Galilee in the flesh? He lived at a time when the Roman empire had conquered Judah; when angry Tiberius was emperor of Rome; and when poor people of Judah were harassed by both Jewish and Roman leaders, especially to pay the Roman tax.

Matthew 9:35-36 (NIV) states: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Poor people expected leaders to be wicked, they were sincerely surprised to see Jesus showing compassion. In the Roman empire at a that time, kindness and gentleness were considered weak and wrong, while anger and cruelty were considered strong and right, but Jesus lived a life of compassion.

In our world today, there is rising anger and cruelty, from the powerful to the poor, and from the poor to the powerful in retaliation; compassion seems like a very bad thing to do. Christians have to see the compassion of Jesus, and live as a people showing compassion to the harassed, widows, orphans, and strangers.

Lord, open our minds to see the compassion of Jesus, so we too can be healers and good shepherds to the harassed and helpless, Amen!

DAVID PAWSON DEPARTS THE STAGE

David Pawson (1930 – 2020)

David Pawson, the British Bible teacher passed away on 21 May 2020, at the age of 90. Pawson wrote about 80 books, produced about 300 Bible teaching videos, and 1500 audio Bible teaching recordings. These can be found in the David Pawson’s Online Teaching Library, and of course on YouTube.

I started following David Pawson about 12 years ago. His calm and easy to follow Bible teaching won me over, as it did millions of people in 120 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. David Pawson’s Unlocking the Bible Series is a masterpiece in serious but humorous, deep but easy to follow Bible teaching.

Raised in the Methodist Church, he served the Church as a Pastor, before moving to Pastor the Guildford Baptist Church, Millmead, England. Under his teaching, Millmead became the largest Baptist congregation in England. He left Millmead in 1979, and began hosting Bible teaching seminars around the world till his death.

David Pawson “fought a good fight, [he] finished [his] course, [he] kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for [him] a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give [him] at that day…” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 KJV).

Thank you David Pawson, for your simplicity, humility, brilliance, and tremendous legacy of good works; your books, videos, and audio teaching will continue to bless generations upon generations of Bible students – goodbye sir!

Lord, inspire us to be diligent Bible students like David Pawson, Amen!

AMOS – JUDGMENT LEADS TO NEW BEGINNINGS

When things are not going right, we hit pause, we reflect, then re-launch or make a new start. When we pause and take stock, we are in judgment mode; we are examining or comparing what we are passing through with our original plans. In this situation, judgment results in cleaning out the toxic to make room for a new beginning.

In Amos, we see that living conditions in Israel had become toxic; greed, corruption, adultery, cruelty to the poor, had become the way of life. Israel had turned its back on her God, who insist on righteousness and fairness in our relationships with one another. Israel was instead worshiping other gods who did not care how they behaved to one another. God’s plan for them, which they accepted in the book of Deuteronomy, was not working – they had to be judged.

Thus Amos 7:7-8 (Easy-to-Read Version Bible) says: “This is what the Lord showed me: He stood by a wall with a plumb line… “Amos, what do you see?” I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said to me, “See, I will put a plumb line among my people Israel. I will not let their ‘crooked ways’ pass inspection anymore…”

A plumb line measures whether a wall is straight from top to bottom. The plumb line helps the builder judge whether the wall is standing according to the plan, or whether the wall should be broken down and rebuilt. God judged Israel according to the masterplan in Deuteronomy, and decided to pull down and start over.

Amos 9:11-15 (Easy-to-Read Version Bible) (shortened) says: “David’s tent has fallen, but at that time I will set it up again. I will fix its holes and repair its ruined parts… I will bring my people, Israel, back from captivity. They will rebuild the ruined cities, and they will live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink the wine… I will plant my people on their land, and never again will they be pulled up out of the land that I gave them.” This is what the Lord your God said.

God wants a world that is righteous and fair. When the powerful make righteousness and fairness impossible, the poor and the weak need help – judgment follows. Judgment comes in many forms, but the result is to root out toxic systems, and a chance for human society to have new beginnings to live decent peaceful lives.

Lord, bring out the plumb line, and renew our nations, Amen!

AMOS – PROPHET FOR THE OPPRESSED

Amos - roar to restore 2
Image source: CrossPointChurch

 

I hate rules, was a strong feeling in me, every time I faced some form of discipline from my parents. Every child probably felt this way at one point or another growing up. It is not unusual to hate rules and seek a life without rules.

Living without rules might seem a good idea, until a bully or tyrant, seizes your lunch, or shirt, or home, or everyone and everything you love including your life. At that point, you will probably, graciously, welcome law and order. Prophet Amos is accused of preaching bad news; the reality is that he preaches God’s law and order.

Amos 5:10-15 (Easy-to-Read Version Bible) (shortened) says: “You change justice to poison… You hate those prophets, who go to public places and speak against evil, even though they teach good, simple truths. You take unfair taxes from the poor… You hurt people who do right, you accept money to do wrong, and you keep the poor from receiving justice in court. At that time wise teachers will be quiet, because it is a bad time… Hate evil and love goodness. Bring justice back into the courts. Maybe then the Lord God All-Powerful will be kind to the survivors from Joseph’s family.”

When love thy neighbor was lost, law and order broken, and greedy, corrupt, bullies, thugs, oppressors, and tyrants took over, Prophets like Amos were sent to heal Israel. First, by speaking against evil, second by reminding Israel that their God Yahweh will punish evil, third by calling for repentance in order to avoid judgement.

Would you believe that despite Amos clear and passionate preaching, a senior priest in Israel, called Amaziah, reported Amos to the king as an enemy of Israel, told Amos to shut up and go home (see Amos 7:10-17). The evil leadership in Israel preferred to be judged than to repent – life under such leaders is painful!

May the Lord deliver us from bullies, thugs, and tyrants; like Israel of old, may the Lord judge leaders with no love for the people they serve and no respect for justice; save the oppressed O Lord, Amen!   

AMOS – HOT WORDS IN ROTTEN TIMES

Amos and Justice
Image credit: CommonThreadChurchRaleigh

 

In many societies, women in their roles as mothers, wives, sisters, female friends, and health care workers, are deep pools of compassion and love to humanity. Women heal the world everyday through their countless small and great acts delivered with love and tenderness. When women lose this specialness, society rotten.

In the book of Amos, we see a nation where women lost their special sauce and the society rotten. First, who was Amos? He was a shepherd in the southern kingdom of Judah sent to deliver God’s last message of warning to the northern kingdom of Israel, around 700 years after they left Egypt and 800 years before Jesus.

At this time, Israel was very wealthy, as God promised in Deuteronomy 8; God also warned of judgement if they used their wealth to act wickedly. Unfortunately, the rich in Israel became wicked and vicious to the poor, in disobedience to God’s laws in Deuteronomy 15 that required the rich to share their wealth with the poor. Sadly, their wives lost their compassion and joined the gang of oppressors.

Amos 4:1-2 (Easy-to-Read Version Bible) says: “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks…”  

Bashan was a place on Israel’s border with well fed cows, who lived to eat. Amos harshly confronted Israel’s women ‘who oppress the poor and crush the needy’; they had lost a heart of compassion for the poor. Assyria conquered Israel 40 years after Amos and put the women in chains attached to their body with hooks.

Israel was warned over and over for more than 100 years before Amos, to change or be judged. Jonah preached to Nineveh, they repented, and were forgiven; many prophets preached to Israel, they did not repent, they became rotten. Amos was sent as a last appeal before judgement, that is why his preaching was so hot!

The world is passing through painful times at present. The few rich are getting richer, but billions of poor people are miserable. Our mothers, wives, sisters, in poor communities are exhausted by hardship, prostitution has therefore exploded around the world. In rotten times like these, God acts as a judge to push back evil.

Loving God, save the poor today, as you did in Israel in the past, Amen!