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Acts 15:36-41 // When Pride Divides

“36 After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. 40 Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers. 41 He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Acts 15:36-41

— 

There are times when being right matters and times when being ‘right’ becomes destructive. We have all experienced those moments where we took an argument a little too far. These are the moments that we replay over and over in our head, either trying to desperately self-justify what we did, or in deep regret, we try to identify the moment when we went over the line hoping we can begin to reverse what we’ve done. 

Human pride is a terribly dangerous thing. It separates friendships, like we see here, it destroys families and divides churches. The “My way or the highway” mentality is never going to promote unity. Screaming matches and “because I said so” statements aren’t likely to get someone to come over to your side. Even when speaking like reasonable, compassionate human beings, we can take something too far, or be too set in me pattern of behavior or one philosophy of ‘how things must be done’ that we wind up creating a destructive environment that is hard to recover from. 

Humility in Christ must be at the core of our being, a willingness to listen and to have flexibility in our plans (so long as they honor God & adhere to His Word) must become a part of how we do things. We must prayerfully approach situations that we know are going to be hot-button issues and seek out God’s way over our own ego’s desire. This isn’t easy to remember to do. It requires a very intentional self-awareness and an active knowledge of our own flaws and tipping points. 
Sometimes, the best response to a heated argument is to step away, prayerfully think through everything that has been said and to take careful consideration of the other person’s point of view. Our hearts are not naturally inclined to do this. It takes a great deal of discipline & humility. But if it really is just a matter of opinion and has nothing to do with maintaining the truth of the Gospel, then we need to be willing to preserve unity over preserving our own ‘rightness.’ 

A disjointed church is not the best witness that she could be, and every church congregation has her own issues and struggles. But we should all do whatever we can to see her shine bright and be a consistent witness as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name.

  

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Mark 16:14-20 // Homework

{These final verses of Mark’s Gospel are not in the earliest manuscripts.}

“14 Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected. 15 Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

19 Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.”

Mark 16:14-20

— 

The poison drinking and snake handling aside, the remainder of the closing of Mark’s gospel fits well with the others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on that, the focus for the Christian remains the same: we have been given a purpose that is beyond ourselves, a holy commissioning that guided the remaining days of our lives here on earth. 

What gives us the most joy? What fills our hearts? What compels us to deeper love?  This life-giving, heart-filling commission from God Himself! Why do we try to fill our days with anything else? Why do we press forward with other plans and uses of our time? Why do we waste months and years of our life and never bring one person to Christ? The church in America has been too focused on self for far too long, trying to tailor Jesus to meet our needs rather than submitting to Him. We want salvation but push back on Lordship. We create a false joy that simply leaves us distracted rather than actually pursuing the things of God. 

That attitude is more of a false Gospel than snake handling. 

We have been given something beautiful, something wonderful to wrap our lives around, but we get distracted and need to repent. 

This Great Commission is driven by the heart of God and should drive every moment of our lives, His will coming first above all else.

Pursue Christ.

Leave this world’s concerns behind.

Find life and light and joy in Him and see what peace and fulfillment He has in store for you. His plans are always better. The world’s need for Him is always greater than our perceived need for comfort. Be bold. GoLove. Share truth. Live your faith. #OwnIt. 

Mark 16:9-13 // The end of weeping

“9 Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. 13 And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.”

Mark 16:9-13

— 

We are now into the much debated end of Mark’s gospel. We usually will see a note that reads, “These verses do not appear in the oldest and best manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel.” and so we need to keep that in mind as we read. 

What we do find is a group of people dealing with the range of emotions that mourning and disappointment brings. We don’t need the ‘oldest and best manuscripts’ to speculate about what the disciples must have been going through. Mourning is real. Death robs. Pain is a part of loss, and as Christians, we understand that we have the answer to that pain. 

Jesus called the Holy Spirit ‘The Comforter’ for a reason. We celebrate His passion and ressurrection every week when we take communion…for a reason. Death is not the great enemy for us. Death has been defeated, the grave’s gaping maw has been subdued. We have hope in the middle of what everyone else calls unbeatable odds. The death rate remains at 100% after all these years, but we have found the loophole, even if it seems too good to believe. 

With the emotional turmoil that the disciples had just been through, it’s no wonder that they had problems registering what was going on, Thomas’ reputation is forever haunted by his initial reaction to this news. He is the ‘Doubter.’ But the amazing news is that an empty grave is undeniable. The lives the disciples lived following this news and their witness of the resurrected Christ stand as evidence for the truth that Jesus is alive and that He stands as the victor over death and the grave. He is the answer to our sadness and pain and the cure for mourning. Jesus is better news than we ever deserve to hear. He is beyond our comprehension, and so a life of faith is what naturally follows. 

By their own eyes and then continued by faith, the disciples would take the world by storm and begin shaping the rest of human history in a way that no dead man could ever manage. Not by force, or by the sword, but with compassion, love, mercy, grace and in the truth that He has risen! He has risen indeed! 

Mark 13:32-37 // Be Alert!

“32 Now concerning that day or hour no one knows — neither the angels in heaven nor the Son — except the Father. 33 Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming. 34 It is like a man on a journey, who left his house, gave authority to his slaves, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert. 35 Therefore be alert, since you don’t know when the master of the house is coming — whether in the evening or at midnight or at the crowing of the rooster or early in the morning. 36 Otherwise, he might come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Be alert!”

Mark 13:32-37

This direct statement from Jesus is just as pressing now as it was when He first issued it to His disciples. We still do not know the day or the hour that He will return, and so our vigilance must be certain, it must be unbroken. Jesus tells us exactly what is expected of us, exactly what we need to do, 

It is like a man on a journey, who left his house, gave authority to his slaves, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert.”

We are to do our work and be alert. It’s not complicated, but it does require our full effort. The attention of our hearts and minds are primarily to be on Christ’s kingdom and the work that He had given us to do. And that may mean that we don’t go straight into a vegetative state when we get home from work or school, but instead, we go serve others, we make an effort to reach out to those around us. It also means that while we are at work or school, that we use that time wisely to do the work of the kingdom. We plant seeds, we water others, we are very intentional about doing the work that God has given us to do. Again, this is not complicated. It is simply a matter of right priorities. Are we committed and vigilant? Are we doing the Master’s work or not? 

As Christians, our obedience is not optional, Jesus never gave us choices in regards to whether or not we do what He requires of us. We have been purchased by His blood. His will overrides our own. We do have choices in how we do His work, but not if we do His work. That is never up for grabs. 

And as a people saved by grace through faith from our sin and its consequences, we should thankfully, lovingly, joyfully undertake this effort for Him. Not as a way to repay Him, as if that were possible, but out of love and gratitude we remain vigilant, doing what is required of us. Again, not just out of a sense of duty, but from glad and sincere hearts. 

This is no cold enterprise that we have taken upon ourselves, but the best news anyone could ever hope to hear. This is love in action, and as we GoLove from the great love that has been given to us, we need to maintain that urgency and vigilance for the day’s task. Our first priority is what our Master has given us to do, and that is to carry out His commands.

Mark 13:24-31 // Final Signs

“24 But in those days, after that tribulation:

‘The sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not shed its light;

25 the stars will be falling from the sky,

and the celestial powers will be shaken.’

26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

28 Learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near — at the door! 30 I assure you:

This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

Mark 13:24-31

— 

In Jesus’ promises for the future, there are two distinctly different timelines running. The first links in with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which many of His disciples would be alive to witness. The second is the eventual end of all things, which they obviously would not be alive to witness. There is a temptation to meld the two together, but that simply does not work. 

To say ‘This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.’ and have in mind the apostles as part of the generation is to ignore the actual phrasing of what Jesus says. The events that Jesus is speaking of in verse 14 are directed toward the 70AD timeline, but by this point, we are solidly pointing toward the end of all things. 

Here’s the fun part though, the fig tree as indicator works for both timelines. Jesus was issuing a warning, two in fact, about how things would wrap up. Both would come with their own signs that the generation alive at the time would not be able to avoid seeing. Just like the fig tree indicates the oncoming summer, so these signs indicate the oncoming of destruction and the end of all things. 

As Christians, we shouldn’t be so wrapped up in the world that we are blinded and that we miss sight of what God is doing. Our focus is supposed to be on eternity and the world yet to come. How much of our efforts are spent on the here and now, gathering for ourselves and building up temporary things rather than seeking out the will of God and working toward the end of all things? Our great commission and commandment  to GoLove people in Jesus Name is imperative number one, priority above all else. 

As Christians, we are working toward/for/in purpose for the end of the world. This is our goal, that all nations would be given the gospel and that we would stand firm to usher in the end of all things and the returnof Christ. Because honestly, would we want to say that we spent our lives and efforts on temporary things, building up false comfort for ourselves, or that we spent our days devoted to the things that sat closest to the heart of God?  That is our choice, and no matter what we do, that fig tree is going to come to bear fruit & leaves. We must decide.

Mark 13:14-23 // The Great Tribulation

“14 When you see the abomination that causes desolation standing where it should not (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! 15 A man on the housetop must not come down or go in to get anything out of his house. 16 And a man in the field must not go back to get his clothes. 17 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! 18 Pray it won’t happen in winter. 19 For those will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of the world, which God created, until now and never will be again! 20 Unless the Lord limited those days, no one would survive. But He limited those days because of the elect, whom He chose.

21 Then if anyone tells you, “Look, here is the Messiah! Look — there!” do not believe it! 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 And you must watch! I have told you everything in advance.”

Mark 13:14-23

— 

Using prophetic language, Jesus has afforded us a look into the future and the events surrounding the destruction of the temple (70 AD) and the last days. There are hints toward both events here in this chapter in Mark. The events on the Temple Mount led into a violent conflict and the dispersion of the Jewish people. What a blessing to give His disciples proper warning and instructions for such a horrific event! 

Life is fraught with tragedies of varying size and importance. Very rarely are we afforded warning. Looking at the historical markers for WW1 & WW2, it was not difficult for people to see trouble brewing. But the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the bombing of Pearl Harbor came unexpectedly. There was no warning. Again, jumping ahead to the events of 9/11, there was no warning, the U.S. was caught completely off guard. And in stark comparison, we find the daily tragedy of government endorsed and supported abortion. 57.4 million babies have died since Roe v Wade in 1973, stand that in contrast to the 2.7 million soldiers & war dead who have passed in every conflict on American soil or as U.S. soldiers. 

Tragedy heaped upon tragedy. We live in a sick and broken world. And since we are all going to ask God when the suffering will end, Jesus was compassionate enough to give us signs, yet wise enough not to give us an exact date. Faith comes into play here, and anticipation of the unknown serves as a fantastic motivator to press forward. God provides our comfort as we await His return, and just like every generation before mine, I sit and think that same thought, “Well, looking at the world today, it can’t be long.” 

I pray that the 6600 unreached people groups are reached within my lifetime and that the evils of the world, like ISIS and Boko Haram among so many others, will be subdued. Christians are dying every day, and every year that annual total increases. Persecution is rampant. Over 35 million Christians have died in the past century, that’s approximately half of all Christian deaths since the birth of the church, and the trend is on the rise. So my hopes, then, do not rest in men seeing this violence stopped, but in God’s work through His people and the spreading of His Word. 

Jesus has given us all the hope we need to survive such trying days, and certainally there are still difficult days to come. The increased silencing of Christian voices in Western Culture is just one of the signs that lets us see that…

But in Christ Jesus, we have hope that will never let us down! GoLove people, and let them hear about the hope that -you- have! It is absolutely worth it! 

Romans 5:1-5

Faith Triumphs

“1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because Gods love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Mark 13:1-13 // Endure in Him

“1 As He was going out of the temple complex, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!”

2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!”

3 While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple complex, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?”

5 Then Jesus began by telling them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, “I am He,” and they will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, dont be alarmed; these things must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 But you, be on your guard! They will hand you over to sanhedrins, and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of Me, as a witness to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 So when they arrest you and hand you over, dont worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour — say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Then brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and put them to death. 13 And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.”

Mark 13:1-13

Things that will happen:

– Destruction of the temple complex

– False teachers and pseudo-Christs

– War, natural disasters, famine

– Public scrutiny of believers

– Gospel is shared globally 

– Family strife experienced for belief

– Believers hated

Now, most of these have been happening since the birth of the church. The Temple complex was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans, but pretty much everything else has been happening repeatedly, in different places at different times. The Gospel being shared globally is the final ingredient that has not been fulfilled, but it draws closer. 

Human turmoil and family strife over the belief in Christ has been a dividing factor since Pentecost. All the social ills that Jesus listed are also age-old issues for the church. So, if so much here is common, then what do we focus on? 

Two things: 

– Getting the gospel to all nations

– Enduring to the end

Those are the two things we have any part in and control over anyway, right? We could spend our days worried and fretting over things we cannot fix or change, or we could do the two things that seem to matter most.

It seems like a simple choice to me, and Jesus told us that He would be with us always, to the very end of the age, so that includes His part in seeing these things done is us and through us. We simply need to trust in Jesus. We focus on these areas of priority and trust Him to handle everything. 

So, GoLove people in His Name, do whatever you can to get the gospel message out there and you concentrate on sticking with Jesus in the process, growing and maturing in Him. There are about 6,500 dialects that lack a copy of the scriptures in their native language. So, funding for those ministries who translate and the missionaries who go there should be our primary concern. Meanwhile, we make sure the Gospel is preached where we are and we endure all things in Christ. 

That’s the plan, that’s the part we can handle being a part of, too. Leave all the big, cataclysmic stuff to God, trust Him to handle it well, and see you through. He is more than capable. 

Mark 12:38-44 // Hypocrisy inside and out

“38 He also said in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who want to go around in long robes, and who want greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the front seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher punishment.”

41 Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. 43 Summoning His disciples, “He said to them, I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed — all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:38-44 

Here we find two hearts in stark contrast with one another. We find the audacious, bold, arrogant heart of the religious leaders standing in opposition to the quiet, faithful, Humble heart of the widow. The religious leaders, proud of their accomplishments, proud of their position, proud of their wealth, proud of their intellect stand apart from God. They worshipped only themselves, and as Jesus says, their reward comes from men and their praise.

But this quiet widow, giving all she had, trusting in God, she is the one with the heart that honors God. Nothing those religious leaders could do could begin to imitate what she brought to God. The religious leaders trusted only in themselves, they had no concept of grace or of God’s care. Sure, they would have considered themselves blessed, but they would also take the credit for the blessing. God showed them favor because of their genetic forebears and because of their own righteous acts. They earned it. 

The widow comes knowing that YHWH is her provider, knowing that there is nothing in her that buys her love from Him. Instead, she comes wholly trusting and wholly thankful. Out of her poverty, she gave it all. And if you’ve ever seen the Israeli ‘mite’ you know that it is an incredibly small coin. For that to be all you have in the world is to be dependent on God. 

Mark 10 – “23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 24 But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

We would all be better to be more dependent on God, trusting in Him, rather than trusting in money, intellect, position or anything else. To GoLove in His Name means to GoLove dependent on Him. Rich and poor, learned and meek, we must come to others humbly through our understanding of Him. We cannot go out proud of self, but instead boasting in Christ. 

Mark 8:34-37

“34 Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? 37 What can a man give in exchange for his life?”

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

“26 Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one can boast in His presence. 30 But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God- given wisdom for us — our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.”

Mark 12:35-37 // Inspiration Confirmed

“35 So Jesus asked this question as He taught in the temple complex, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the Son of David? 36 David himself says by the Holy Spirit:

‘The Lord declared to my Lord,

Sit at My right hand

until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’

37 David himself calls Him Lord ; how then can the Messiah be his Son?” And the large crowd was listening to Him with delight.”

Mark 12:35-37

When properly read, understood and taught, Scripture captivates and delights the heart. There is no need to build it up, no purpose in feeling like it has to be justified or treating it like it cannot stand on its own. Here, in answering to a common thought about Messiah, Jesus confirms divine inspiration and shows the power behind these words. 

Just as Messiah is not simply the son of David, but also his Lord & Master, Scripture is not simply a collection of writings and thoughts but a work of art written on and through the hearts of men by the direct inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit. 

This is a key doctrine and understanding of the Christian world. The Bible isn’t just a book or a series of letters. No, Scripture is a collection of divinely inspired writings, given to humanity by God for the express purpose of seeing out Him and His will. It is properly understood as a revelatory work, something given over that was hidden and would not otherwise have been revealed. It is holy, sacred and powerful. It is inerrant when it is  untampered with and left to deliver its own message and not the agendas of men who translate it to suit their own ends or to make it more ‘politically correct.’

Every thought, every attitude of our heart should be weighed and measured against this most holy book. And because it is not only a book written by men, it deserves our attention as a matter of first importance. Secular books may be fun to read, they may sculpt our imaginations, but Scripture has the power, again though the Holy Spirit, to transform our hearts and lives. Time and again, atheists and agnostics who seek to discredit it find themselves, through thorough examination, at the conclusion the were seeking to avoid. God is real. His Word is living and active and it cuts to the core of our being. 

Words are powerful. God’s words? Infinitely so.

Know that you are equipped for anything and everything when you GoLove people with your heart full of this wonderful gift of love.

Mark 12:28-34 // Foundational Belief

“28 One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?”

29 “This is the most important,” Jesus answered:

“Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

31 The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”

32 Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. 33 And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God. And no one dared to question Him any longer.”

Mark 12:28-34 

So, it comes down to this : 

Wholly & sincerely love God first and above all, with everything you have, can & are, there are no excuses or exceptions. 

Love everyone else like you love yourself. 

So, if you are not, repent and GoLove properly.

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