So Close Yet So Far

But the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:19 (NAS)

The worries of the world, the pursuit of riches, and desires for other things can and will choke out spiritual growth, but more importantly, can stop someone in their tracks who is being drawn to God.

I read a very sad story, to me at least, of a popular news correspondent who started her early college life as a professed “Christian,” but eschewed Christianity to be free to pursue “truth” through journalism. The shallow soil of her heart must not have allowed the Holy Spirit to take root, or entanglements of logic and reason choked out all hope of germination. To hear her tell the story, while she was “in the faith,” she had resolved to live a good life, but under whose power? Obviously her own.

You’ll never ever get certitude in understanding God, no matter how much you rephrase the question.

Then, with just a little outside influence and the always-present “questions of life,” she sought to seek a more nebulous “God,” opening up a seemingly more exciting, exhilarating and compelling life on the edge. You see, you’ll never ever get certitude in understanding God, no matter how much you rephrase the question. As one has said, it’s like the flea attempting to understand the dog.

The thing is, this self-admitted “tortured” soul is still very conscious of what the Lord was offering her, but almost joyfully refuses his truth because she can’t trust the source.

As Paul puts it is Romans 1:21-22, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,”

So close yet so far!

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Fake News

“Take care what you listen to,” says Jesus (Mark 4:24). We don’t often realize this but information is now controlled and tailored to effect the nefarious interests of the world, i.e. Satan.

This is not a conspiracy theory but the obvious truth. Large search engines pick and choose the news they want to stress and enticingly and conveniently route it to you on their portals. It’s all about algorithms these days.

Jesus might have said if he walked this earth now to be careful what you click on.

We need to take charge of the information we take in. Our grid needs to always be the Word of God. The more we know of that the better we can detect “fake news.”

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How to Have a Fertile Heart

Jesus was proclaiming the kingdom of God was at hand—himself—and his people were not receiving him in that role, but as a healer or political threat. Seeing this, he chose to speak in parables, for those who were receptive would catch their thinly-veiled meanings.

The parable of the soil (Mark 4:1-20) as it should be called, has been debated in terms of who’s saved and who’s not. I’d say that the truly saved upon reading this parable will immediately sense there’s more to the story than a stepping off point to a debate. Here the first commentary consulted should be the Lord’s explanation that follows it. What else is needed?

Note in all cases the sower and seed are the same, but the soil varies. One question quickly pops into my head. Can I cultivate myself so that the seed sown—the Word if God—will grow? I’d say absolutely, by removing the cares and concerns of world and all of its allurements, by a keen sensitivity to and examination of what the Word says and means, by seeking through prayer the Holy Spirit’s illumination and guidance into all truth, and so forth. Once said this way, to be fruitful, you had better be capable of a lot of self-discipline and in possession of a resolute heart, or simply saved!

The telltale sign of a saved person is a voracious hunger for the Word of God. The Holy Spirit does the clearing, plowing, and irrigation.

Truth is, nothing grows in an unregenerate heart.

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On Losing Your Senses

When you do the will and work of God you can expect to be thought of by the sensible to have lost your senses.

When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” Mark 3:21

If honest, we may be quick to think a young man or woman is somewhat crazy to leave house and home for the mission field when all others seem bent on pledging a fraternity or sorority at the parents’ alma mater.

Normally the call of God puts you in strange places. We think, “Why would anyone want to do that or go there?”

Then the exercise of spiritual gifts can be questioned, only because these new skills may be totally out of character. Short of being thought “possessed” like Jesus was, there may be some questioning of actual ability or motives. Even those closest to us can sell us short, even casting aside sound logic.

Someone sold out for God joins the prestigious club of those doing the will of God. Only those doing the same will understand.

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Contending Earnestly or Catering Eagerly?

Like Jude, I’ve been troubled recently by what I see as the precarious and weakening state of evangelical Christianity. While wanting to continue on in my study of the gospel of Mark, I was drawn to this short book of exhortation to acquire somewhat of an ally, someone with a similar gnawing worry. While wanting to write about a common salvation Jude pivoted to a common problem.

We need more Christians contending earnestly for the faith and less catering eagerly to the faithless. We live in a time where attacks on the fundamental Christian worldview are relentless. While we hold the upper hand in a victorious Christ, collectively the defender of the faith—the church—seems to have sounded the retreat in an attempt to stay relevant and accepted. We may be wanting to rescue people from the fire, but we aren’t preparing the kinds of people who can stand the heat.

How can a people who don’t seem to believe in the first 11 chapters of the Bible, who’ve gone wobbly on the reality of hell and God’s sovereign judgment, who get the main tenets of their theology from worship songs, and have made wholesale accommodations for the gross immorality the Bible clearly condemns, be counted on to fight for the doctrines of Christianity?

Jude is pleading for us the called, the beloved in God the father, the kept in Jesus Christ, to agonize over—struggle for—our common and most holy faith.

There’s much talk these days, and I hate it, of “being woke.” But if there ever was a time to wake up to the doctrinal peril we face it’s now!

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It’s Just Sad

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Mark 3:1-6

Jesus (i.e. God) reacts to hard-hearted unbelief with both anger and sorrow. At the cross Jesus asked for mercy for those who “knew not what they were doing.” (Luke 23:34) It’s one thing to strike out against God with no knowledge of who he is, another to scheme to take him down knowing full well who he is. Here they were watching and hoping that he’d heal so that they could pounce on him for a “violation” of the Sabbath.

In a way the Pharisees demonstrated their tacit belief in Jesus by their posture towards him. In their minds, his healing power was a given. After all, who but God could heal someone with a “withered hand.” They just didn’t want their power usurped. This would-be trap angered and grieved Jesus.

In the end he expended no overt energy to show that he had healed the man’s hand. It was simply restored. This story is an example of how we should feel about the ravenous enemies of Christianity and its leader. Jesus is both angry and aggrieved. So we should be.

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No Rules Just Right

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We live in the era of video review of close calls on the field. It takes time, but they say, “Isn’t it better to get it right?”

So we spend valuable leisure minutes waiting for the call down from the booth on whether the tag was made, a football move was performed, or a foot was dragged at the blue line.

And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Mark 2:23-24

Well, if you read on to verse 28 you’ll find that the call made on the field by Christ himself was upheld by the Lord himself on closer review. And if the Pharisees had consulted the rulebook they would have found that the disciples did not “reap” as they handpicked the grain, which was forbidden on the Sabbath (Exodus 34:21). They would have needed to use a sickle for that.

What the Lord actually overruled using David’s precedent of eating consecrated bread when hungry was the rigid tradition of the Pharisees. They’d turned the Sabbath created for man as a blessing into a burden.

So here was another something new and different with the advent of the Messiah; “no rules just right.”

The most convicting thing the Lord says here, however, is “haven’t you read?” Are you reading God’s Word?

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