Mark 6

Greetings!

This reading is Mark 6

People who knew Jesus from his youth were amazed at his teachings and miracles.  The Bible records very little of his youth.  This passage notes that Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters.  

Yet some people were offended by his message (this hasn’t changed in 2,000 years!).  When it says Jesus “could not” do miracles there, it is in the sense of not being able to do them because he chose not to.  He was God in flesh, so He could do miracles at any time.  He only did them where there was faith, though.  And Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith.”  Pay close attention to what really brings joy to Jesus and you’ll see that faith is the #1 thing.   

Note the singular message that the Disciples took to the villages: Repent (v. 12).  To repent is to turn away from our sins and turn towards God.  Many parts of the Bible can be difficult to understand, but our core problem is that we are sinners in need of a Savior.  Repentance is a critical part of being reconciled to God. 

King Herod was tricked by his wife into beheading John the Baptist (No one said the Bible wasn’t PG-13 or even R-rated at times.  It records what really happened.) 

The famous miracles of the loaves and fishes is recorded here.  Assuming the 5,000 men had families with them, roughly 20,000 people were fed by the 5 loaves and 2 fishes.  Jesus did what they thought was impossible, and once again showed his power over nature.

Jesus walked on water and amazed his disciples.  The Gospel of Matthew records how Peter walked on water (temporarily) as well.  Jesus told them, “Don’t be afraid.”  Trivia fact: The Bible says, “Do not fear” 366 times – one for each day of the year, including leap year.  Keep that in mind when the world makes you fearful. 

In closing, think about Jesus’ words to his disciples in v. 31: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Jesus wants us to spend time with him alone and He knows the importance of rest for us.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

The next reading is Mark 7.

Labels

Pro-choice media often refer to pro-lifers as “anti-abortionists.”  I suppose the name is somewhat accurate, but it is obvious they are using it in a pejorative (put down) sense and they use it relentlessly despite our preference to be referred to as pro-life.

But if we are anti-abortionists, wouldn’t they be pro-abortionists?  Pro-choicers typically bristle at this, noting that nobody really wants abortions to happen.  I think for many pro-choicers that is true, so I try to use their preferred name.  I sometimes slip and use “pro-abortion” in the sense of “pro-legalized abortion” but not in the sense that I think their attitude is “Woo-hoo!  Abortions are swell!” 

 Still, most pro-choicers I am aware of publicly and privately do fall into this category:

Pro-abortion on demand for any reason up to and including partial birth abortion, without parental notification requirements for minors, without anesthesia for the unborn, lower standards than hospitals, against 24 hour waiting periods, government funded if necessary, and critical and unsupportive of Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

Phew.  That is a little wordy, so I’ll stick to referring to them as pro-choice.

When was the New Testament written?

There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about how and when the Bible was formed. Some skeptical historians try to date the Gospels and other New Testament writings as far from the death of Jesus as possible because it supports their hypothesis that they were largely made up. Of course, if the Gospels really were dated 70 AD or after, there is no reason they couldn’t still be the inspired Word of God. Yet a late dating obviously plays into the hands of heretics who strive to discredit the authority of Scripture.

But the facts point to all or nearly all of the New Testament books being written within 40 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the following:

  1. Jesus died and rose again around 33 A.D.
  2. The Apostle Paul was killed in 64 AD. This is a well attested historical fact. All his writings obviously occurred before then, and 1 Corinthians and Romans were written well before then. Paul testified that Jesus rose from the dead, among other things, and he did so within 20-30 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  3. The book of Acts, written by Luke, ends with Paul was in prison in 62 AD. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke before he wrote Acts, so it was presumably written in the late 50’s.
  4. Most scholars agree that Luke was not the first Gospel. Therefore, the earliest Gospel must have been written no later than the mid to late 50’s. If Matthew and Luke used the ‘Q’ document (a lost early church writing) as a source, then of course ‘Q’ would have been written even closer to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  5. If the Gospels were all written after 70 A.D., why wasn’t the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned anywhere (especially in Matthew)? This was one of the most dramatic events in history, and was predicted by Jesus.
  6. Since these accounts were written within 20-30 years of Jesus death and resurrection, it is highly unlikely that they would have been myths. There would have been too many people alive to dispute the findings. And keep in mind that many thousands of people died believing these words to be true. Martyrs will die for a lie if they think it is true, but I don’t know of anyone who knowingly dies for a lie. If Jesus didn’t really have a bodily resurrection, why would the disciples live unnecessarily hard lives and die horrible deaths for something they knew to be a lie?

Also see Debunking the DaVinci Code

Hat tip to Stand to Reason for much of the above. Click here to learn lots more about the origins of the Bible.

Ministry spotlight: Pocket Testament league

pocket.jpgThere is a unique ministry called the Pocket Testament League dedicate to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The Pocket Testament League has, for more than 110 years, motivated Christians to read, carry and share the Word of God. Begun in 1893 as the vision of a teenage girl named Helen Cadbury, the League provides free resources empowering people to develop a lifestyle of personal evangelism.

You can get free copies of the Gospel of John with various covers and translations.  You can order all you like (they do accept donations, but it is not required).  If you are able to strike up a conversation with someone on spiritual matters you can offer to give them a booklet.  It may be less intimidating to the other person than if you gave them a whole Bible to read (though that is good, too!). 

As noted in these 8 Witnessing Tips, it is helpful to leave them with something. The Gospel of John is considered one of the most beautiful works of literature ever written, and of course it was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  As John himself wrote,

John 20:30-31 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Mark 5

Greetings!

This reading is Mark 5.

From the end of chapter 4 through chapter 5 Jesus displays his awesome powers over nature (calming the waves), evil spirits, sickness and even death.  Among other things, He was proving his nature as God and the expected Messiah.   

The man was possessed by many demons.  Some Bible critics claim that when the Bible mentions demon possession it was really epilepsy or some other disease.  While people have often attributed mental and physical illnesses to the wrong source, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t guide the Bible writers to pass along an old wives’ tale.  And in this case, Jesus wouldn’t put epilepsy in the pigs and have them run over a cliff.  And even if it was epilepsy, it was a pretty big deal for Jesus to cure it!

Jesus often told people he healed not to tell anyone, as that would gain the wrong kind of publicity for him.  Yet this man was a Gentile (non-Jew) in a non-Jewish area.  He told the man to tell his family how much the Lord has done for him, and how he had mercy on him.  One of our jobs as Christians is to tell others what the Lord has done in our lives.  We don’t have to know everything about Jesus and the Bible, but we do have our story to tell and we can point them to other sources if we can’t answer their questions.  Also see, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” for how to respond when you aren’t sure of the answers.

I always wondered why Jesus answered the demons’ request to be put into the pigs.  Perhaps it was to show how the local people were more concerned about their pigs than about the healed man and the power that Jesus has. 

Note that the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  Just because someone knows about Jesus doesn’t mean they have trusted in him for their salvation.  As James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

The woman had great faith and was healed by merely touching Jesus’ garment.  Jesus often asked questions He already knew the answer to.  He knew who had touched him and why.  Imagine the woman’s plight: Sick for twelve years, getting worse and now poor because she spent all she had on doctors.  And due to Old Testament laws, she could not have fully participated in worship for twelve years. Yet Jesus healed her in an instant. 

Jesus showed his power over death when he brought Jairus’ twelve year old girl back to life. I don’t know if there is any symbolism to the woman having a disease for 12 years and the girl being 12.  I can’t imagine the grief of losing a child or the joy of having one brought back. 

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

The next reading is Mark 6.

Other people’s money

Followers of Jesus should obey his commands to help the poor and defenseless.  But I’m pretty sure He meant for me to use my money, not yours.

Giving away other people’s money is not charity, and it isn’t what the Bible asks of us. There are many kind hearted atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Rotary Club members, etc. who do good deeds, too.  The central message of the Bible isn’t the Social Gospel, it is the real Gospel: That Jesus came to save lost sinners. 

If you want to give money, that is generosity. But if I vote for policies that take your money and give it away by force of law, that isn’t generosity. That is more like coveting, where I am accusing God of not distributing wealth properly in the first place. It means the government must take it from one to give to another.

Note that I am not against any government help for the poor.  I just think that much of it has been counterproductive. The “War Against Poverty” was a flaming disaster and doomed countless children to grow up poor and fatherless. That isn’t love. We shouldn’t ask the government to do what the church should be doing, because the government can only dole out money in a soul-less fashion. 

We are part of the richest 1% of people who have ever lived and we should be giving lots of our own money away and addressing people’s spiritual needs at the same time. 

Background information on the Bible

This blog will consist of roughly 95% posts on specific chapters of the Bible, posted every other day including Sundays and holidays.  The other 5% will be cross-posts here and at the 4Simpsons Blog on the following topics:

  • How the Bible was put together
  • The reliability of the Bible: Can we trust it?
  • Tips on reading the Bible
  • Etc.

These posts will appear on days in between the Bible Study posts. 

Some of you may already be convinced of the reliability of the Bible and are just here for the study, which is great.  And I do believe the Word of God has the power to stand on its own.  Many people have been converted to a saving faith in Jesus just by reading the Bible itself. 

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

A good figure of speech I heard related to this compared the Bible to a caged lion.  How can the caged lion best defend itself?  By being let out of the cage!  The same is true with the Bible.  Just turn it loose. 

Yet I didn’t become a believer until I had worked through a lot of tough questions about why this book was something I could rely upon to tell me the truth about God and life.  It can really strengthen your faith to have a better understanding of how the Bible was put together and why we can trust it.

Having said that, if your time is limited and you have to make a choice between reading something I or someone else wrote versus reading the Bible, always pick the Bible. 

Temptation

You don’t have to fail to know the full weight of temptation. In fact, those who don’t give into temptation are the only ones who know the full weight of it. When we give into temptation quickly we don’t know how severe it really was. For example, only the weightlifter who completes the lift knows the full weight of it.

Good news for Christians: God can help us overcome temptation and give us victory over sin. Jesus knew the full weight of temptation, and He never failed. He can relate to the temptations we struggle with and he sympathizes with us.

Hebrews 2:18: Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Also, your temptations aren’t unique to you.  Others wrestle with them as well.  And more good news is that God will provide a way out if you let him.

1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is just; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Hat tip: Walk in the Word

Weekly roundup

1. The title says it all: DUI Suspect Shows Up Drunk For Court Hearing (hat tip: LoneStarTimes).  Seriously, this is pretty sick.  Let’s recap:

  • The guy admits to drinking a 12-pack a day “and then some”
  • it is his second DUI conviction (who knows how many times he has driven drunk?)
  • His blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit
  • He shows up drunk to court
  • He only got a sentence of 30 days to 6 months!  This guy will be back behind the wheel in 180 days or less. 

2. Some truly encouraging news – Chinese churches are growing like wildfire.

3. Houston Police officers were told by their leaders not to chase minor traffic offenders who refuse to stop.  Did it occur to them that while the traffic offense was minor that fleeing an officer was a felony?  How about the fact that anyone who flees an officer isn’t doing it just to avoid a ticket.  They probably have something bigger to hide.  Finally, if you are going to implement such a policy, why tell everyone about it? Police do a difficult and important job.  Their leaders could be doing better.

Mark 4

Greetings!

This reading is Mark 4.

Jesus often taught in parables, which are short stories that have settings familiar to the listeners.  The parables typically had one major point.  Some thought and reflection is required to understand them (I don’t know if I understood any parables the first time I heard them).  They often seem to go against the wisdom of the world, but upon further study they reveal great truths about God and his plan. 

Jesus wasn’t trying to trick anyone by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  He was pointing out that unless you truly desire to know the truth you won’t be able to understand him.

The four soils is one of the many farming illustrations in the Bible.  The seed of God’s Word is spread all over, but the results vary:

  • Some ignore it completely.
  • Some receive it with joy but have no roots, so they fade away.
  • Some hear it but let the worries of life choke it out.
  • Some hear it and accept it and produce a great crop.

Which kind of soil have you been?  Remember, this is a parable.  Just because you ignored the Word of God once doesn’t mean you can’t hear it now and let it thrive in good soil. 

I understand v. 25 to be saying that if we have faith we will be given more, but if we don’t have faith we’ll lose what we have already.

The message of the mustard seed is probably one or more of the following:

  • An image of evangelism (spreading the Word of God)
  • A metaphor for spiritual growth in Christians
  • The coming of God’s kingdom

The chapter ends with an astounding miracle.  Jesus has already been healing many people from serious diseases.  Now He shows his power over his creation by calming a storm.  Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking after that?  Remember that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He lives, and He can help you with the storms in your life today. 

Reflect on what stood out to you in this chapter and share your comments if you like. 

The next reading is Mark 5.

Government & bedrooms

A common pro-choice sound bite is that “Government should stay out of our bedrooms.”  It is an emotional play on the theme of privacy, but the logic is poor for several reasons.  

I don’t know of any abortions that occur in bedrooms.  I’m pretty sure that most take place at abortion clinics. 

Rape, incest, pedophilia, murders, thefts and a host of other crimes can occur in bedrooms, but I don’t hear anyone suggesting that the government ignore those.   

I realize the first two items were taking the claim literally, but the pro-choice reasoning also fails in a figurative sense.  Groups that claim to want the government out of bedrooms sure have cashed a lot of government checks for “educating” our youth on sexually related matters.  As detailed here, Planned Parenthood and the like appear to have a great deal of interest in your bedroom activities and those of your children, and they crave and receive massive government funding.  If by “government out of our bedrooms” they mean “government out of our sex lives,” then Planned Parenthood supporters should ask that they refund all the money they have received ($3.9 billion since 1987) and get out of our schools.  

As with most pro-choice arguments, this claim ignores the primary issue of abortion: Whether or not an innocent human being is killed.  If abortion doesn’t kill an innocent human being, then of course the government shouldn’t be involved in determining whether the procedure is legal.  However, if it does kill an innocent human being, then it really doesn’t matter where the life of the unborn started.   

Quote of the day – Tolerance – revised and expanded!

OK, it turns out the original quote was out of context (Hat tip: Alan, editor-in-chief).  I can’t remember if the source I got it from had it out of context or if I misread it. Either way, my bad. 

But all is not lost.  The quote was still poor, just for different reasons.  And I didn’t even need the quote to make my original point; it was just a good catalyst.   

First, comments from Alan about the quote:

He is talking about academia, in general. The article, titled “One University, Under God” begins by examining the separation of church and state, and how that separation has changed over the last 15 years in politics. Then he moves to how the relationship between the academy and religion have also changed. He’s been talking about the fact that religion has always been an object of study in the academy and then he says….

Now, the original quote in bold plus the context around it:

“But it is one thing to take religion as an object of study and another to take religion seriously. To take religion seriously would be to regard it not as a phenomenon to be analyzed at arm’s length, but as a candidate for the truth. In liberal theory, however, the category of truth has been reserved for hypotheses that take their chances in the “marketplace of ideas.”

Religious establishments will typically resist the demand that basic tenets of doctrine be submitted to the test of deliberative reason. (The assertion that Christ is risen is not one for which evidence pro and con is adduced in a juridical setting.) That is why in 1915 the American Association of University Professors denied to church-affiliated institutions of higher learning the name of “university”; such institutions, it was stated, “do not, at least as regards one particular subject, accept the principles of freedom and inquiry.”

What that meant, in effect, was that in the name of the tolerant inclusion of all views in the academic mix, it was necessary to exclude views that did not honor tolerance as a first and guiding principle.

Walter Lippmann laid down the rule: “Reason and free inquiry can be neutral and tolerant only of those opinions which submit to the test of reason and inquiry.” And what do you do with “opinions” (a word that tells its own story) that do not submit? Well, you treat them as data and not as candidates for the truth. You teach the Bible as literature — that is, as a body of work whose value resides in its responsiveness to the techniques of (secular) literary analysis. Or you teach American Puritanism as a fascinating instance of a way of thinking we have moved beyond.”

Stanley Fish, “Chronicle of Higher Education”

His reasoning is flawed because he dogmatically states that religion cannot be a candidate for truth.  All religions make truth claims, many of which can be tested.  Christianity, for example, is historical and evidential.  Not everything can be verified, but by using the same criteria we apply to other historical works and events we can validate a great deal. 

For example, archeology has been called “the Bible’s best friend” (Note to self: do a post on that someday).  If you can find a historian that thinks the tomb wasn’t empty on Easter morning, I’d like to hear his reasoning (I’m not aware of any who make that claim).  There are at least six non-Biblical historical works that refer to Jesus, so we can say with confidence that we are dealing with a real person in history.  The quality and quantity of the New Testament manuscripts far exceeds that of any other works of antiquity.

His notion that Christianity doesn’t take its chances in the marketplace of ideas is simply wrong.  Christianity freely submits to the test of reason and inquiry.  Contrary to the myths, the Bible teaches us to think critically.  Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • We are to love God with our hearts, souls and minds.
  • In Acts 17:11, The Bereans were lauded for critically examining what Paul taught to determine if it was true.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21: Test everything, hold onto the good.

And I still think the original quote sounds mushy regardless of the context.

Back to my original rant comments.  I’ll revisit the tolerance and postmodern topics later.

The classical view of tolerance was to respect people even when you disagreed with their ideas.  After all, you can only tolerate something if you disagree with it.  If you agree with it, there is nothing to tolerate.  The new, twisted definition of tolerance is to disrespect the people who hold different beliefs and the ideas they hold.  Which, of course, isn’t tolerance at all.  It is arrogance, pride, oppression and fear masquerading as tolerance.

Also see The Intolerance of Tolerance by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.. 

Mark 3

This reading is Mark 3.

This chapter begins with something you’ll find throughout the Gospels: Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was Saturday, a Jewish Holy day set aside by God.  There were various Old Testament laws prohibiting work on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees (a group of devout but often hypocritical Jewish leaders) had added many rules themselves.  Instead of being overjoyed that the man’s shriveled hand was healed, they were so jealous and angry that they wanted to kill Jesus.

Note that most of Jesus’ miracles are of the visible variety.  Leprosy disappears, eyesight is returned, paralyzed people walk, etc.  These weren’t things you could fake.  Try finding that with the “healers” you find on TV.

As Jesus’ fame grew, his family initially thought he was crazy (v. 21).  His brother James, who wrote the book of the Bible of the same name, didn’t follow Jesus until he saw him after the resurrection.

The teachers of the law accused him of being possessed by Satan.  Jesus is ever the clear thinker and exposed their foolish reasoning. 

Some people worry that they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit (v. 29) and cannot be forgiven.  This is sometimes called the unforgivable sin.  As a rule of thumb, if you are worried about having committed that sin you probably haven’t committed it.  It is typically considered to be an ongoing and complete rejection of the Holy Spirit of God.  God the Father reaches us through God the Holy Spirit so we will put our faith in God the Son (Jesus).  So if you completely reject the Holy Spirit you won’t get the message.  It isn’t too late to turn to Jesus if you haven’t done so already. 

Enjoy the chapter and feel free to post any thoughts or questions you have!

The next reading is Mark 4.

The Left-Right continuum

One of the problems with political discourse is the myth that we are all on one continuous line going from left to right. However, both liberals and conservatives get lumped in with people they staunchly disagree with (picture Rev. Barry Lynn and Jesse Jackson on the left and Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps on the right). Fred Phelps sure isn’t a lefty, but I don’t consider him part of my group, either (If you don’t know who he is, count yourself lucky). Perhaps we need a triangle or a square to properly position those with “unusual” views.

Another challenge is sorting out goals vs. tactics. For example, most of us have the goal of having less poor people, but some tend to prefer government programs while others have different solutions.  Instead of focusing on which methods are more effective, the dialogue often deteriorates into personal attacks and questions about motives.