And He Said This Plainly

I’m continuing my lectio divina study of Mark, and today I read how Jesus began to teach the disciples about His mission. They understood that He was the Christ, the Messiah. So He went on to tell them that he would be rejected, suffer, be killed, and after three days rise from the dead. Mark notes, He said this plainly. (Mark 8:32). In other words, He didn’t beat around the bush or use euphemisms, He told them right out — I’m going to die and rise again. We can tell from what happens later that in spite of this plain speaking, his followers didn’t get it. Peter tries to rescue Him when He’s arrested. They flee and hide while He’s being crucified. They’re doubtful and astounded when Mary Magdalene reports she’s seen Him. It seems incredible, that after being told exactly what to expect, they managed to ignore or forget them.

It makes me wonder how often I do the same thing. There are plenty of places in the Bible when Jesus tells me how to behave or what to do, and I find a way to weasel out or misunderstand. For example:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

Of course I try to love God and my neighbor. Don’t all Christians? But do I love God with all my heart? Don’t I save a piece for my husband, my children, my home and my own comfort and security (in other words it’s at least partly about me). Then there’s the love for my neighbor. God couldn’t possibly mean that I would love my neighbor in the same way as I love myself, could He? That would mean helping him when it’s inconvenient, maybe even sacrificing for him. That would mean loving him when he’s been unfriendly and annoying, or refused to help me! That would mean not gossiping about him, and seeking his welfare. Even worse, if I read the parable of the Good Samaritan closely, it’s plain to see that my neighbor isn’t just the fellow who lives upstairs or down the street, but anyone who needs me.

I marvel at how dense the disciples were. Jesus told them plainly. And they’re not alone. He tells me plainly, too. I’m no different from those early followers; I hear the things I like, and ignore the ones I don’t. However, Jesus and the Bible speak plainly. You and I just need to hear.

For more on the Gospel of Mark see:

Take Heart; it is I

Rest a While

Go Home

Extravagant Love

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at this feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”  Luke 7:36-38

These verses were part of our Sunday School lesson last week.  The point of the study was that we are not only to love Jesus, but to love him extravagantly, like the sinful woman in the story.  The Pharisee was offended by the woman’s actions.  He thought to himself,

“If this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is –that she is a sinner.”  Luke 39

He didn’t realize that he also was a sinner, and in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  No matter how “good” we are, we fall far short of God’s standards.

Some of the questions from the study were very challenging to me, so I thought I would share them here.

  • In what ways could we express extravagant devotion to Jesus today?

Those in class listed things like prayer and helping others.  However, if the key word is extravagant, then shouldn’t we not only pray, but pray constantly and fervently?  Shouldn’t we not just give to the church and to the needy, but give sacrificially?

  • With whom do you relate more: Simon the Pharisee, who knows the Bible and is very active for God, or this woman, who is recklessly abandoned to love Him?  Explain.

Most of us wanted to say we fell somewhere in between.  This is a hedging way of saying, we’re not really there yet.  In honesty, we probably fall closer to the Pharisee on the spectrum of devotion to Jesus.  This is something we need to admit and work on.

What about you, dear reader?  Is your love for your Lord and Savior extravagant?

Loving God

F.W. Robertson (3 February 1816 – 15 August 1853) was an English clergyman.  This quote written by him was in my morning devotional reading, and it caught my eye and imagination because I am working on a Sunday School lesson entitled, Loving Jesus.  It helped me with my lesson and I hope you like it, too.

“To love God is to love His character.  For instance, God is Purity.  And to be pure in thought and look, to turn away from unhallowed books and conversation, to abhor the moments in which we have not been pure, is to love God.  God is Love;  and to love men till private attachments have expanded into a philanthropy which embraces all, –and at last even the evil and enemies with compassion–that is to love God.  God is Truth.  To be true, to hate every form of falsehood, to live a brave, true, real life,–that is to love God.  God is Infinite;  and to love the boundless, reaching from grace to grace, adding charity to faith, and rising upwards ever to see the Ideal still above us, and to die with it unattained, aiming insatiably to be perfect even as the Father is perfect–that is to love God.”

 

Keeping it Simple

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has told you, O man, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:1-8

We tend to make things complicated that should be simple.  The Jews had over 600 rules to explain exactly how to follow God’s commandments.  I’m no different.  When I take on a task, I like to pin down the exact expectations, so I can be sure to measure up.  God doesn’t seem to work that way.  He made each of us unique and special. He knows our talents and gifts, our weaknesses and flaws.  Remember Beth Ann’s post about the talents?  Each servant was commended for using what they had been given, but they didn’t end up with identical results.  The only servant who was denounced, was so fearful, he didn’t do anything with the gift he was given.

So, in the verses above, God’s prophet Micah tells the people, there isn’t a certain number, or a specific type of sacrifice you need to make.  You just need to be fair and kind to others.  Spend time with me, have a humble attitude, and you will learn what you need to know and your efforts will please God.  He is, after all, your Father, who wants love and respect, not blind obedience.

Jesus tried to keep it simple, too.  In the book of Matthew when the Pharisees question him about the requirements of the law he answers:

“…’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments, depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-39

So, if I love God, my heart will be in the right place, and I’ll want to obey.  It’s won’t be a task to be completed perfectly.  It will be a natural consequence of who I am.  I guess the lesson for me here is, spend more time with God, getting to know Him, experiencing His presence, studying His Word, and my obedience, though imperfect, will please Him.  I don’t need to worry about the details.

 

Walking in Obedience

I am posting this for Becky, a Lutheran lady from St. Paul’s who does not use the computer, but likes to write.  She is one of our adult Sunday School teachers.  I hope you enjoy her thoughts on this month’s topic, obedience.

A Christian is called to obedience and discipleship.  God is to be loved and listened to and obeyed.

“The Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love Him with all your heart and soul and might” Deuteronomy 6:4 (the law of love)

Be exclusively devoted to God and learn His commandments and obey them.  Our entire being must be totally committed and obedient–our total being with love–our absolute devotion to God with all we have.  We need to seek the truth.  His word is truth and needs to be known and obeyed.  When we worship, we come together before a loving God to honor Him for His greatness and focus on listening to hear His Holy Word.  We have to be exposed to the Word and open our hearts to transformation through faith and obedience.  Willing obedience is the response of gratitude for the gift of eternal life.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  John 14:15

We respond to God’s promises and commands out of love and gratitude and devotion to Him.  In lifting our hearts to God and being instructed by Him, we express our love for Him.  God commands us to be consistent in our Christian conduct.  What we profess must be revealed in our actions.  Where words and deeds are in harmony, faith and works go hand in hand.

With the perfect obedience of Jesus, we, through faith and love can now in Christ obey God and be saved(Romans 5:19).  Christ’s obedience teaches us obedience through believing in His saving work.  We join with Him and receive the promise of eternal salvation.

“Who in the days of His flesh, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.”  Hebrews 5:8

Doing good to others is part of our commitment to God.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments.”  1 John 5:2

Our walk of obedience to God gives us a heart guided and nurtured by the Holy Spirit in all areas of our lives to grow in our love for Jesus.  May we each offer ourselves to God in trust and obedience.