Mark 9-10

Greetings from Hong Kong.  I apologize for not being up to speed with the blogs.  Between jetlag and family meeting after meeting, it’s been pretty tiring to say the least.  Not that it’s an excuse, but the energy drain is ever so influential…

Just as chapter 9 begins, Jesus addresses the previous crowd of chapter 8 with this statement: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power”. Perhaps this Jesus eluding to predestination?  

We also learn about the power of prayer in this chapter.  Forgive me if this sounds childish and borderline heretic or even faithless, but I must admit there are times I actually have the audacity to ask “Does praying actually work?  Am I actually buying this?”  Perhaps it’s simply a lack of faith and even sinful, but I do try to be truthful about these thoughts.  To be honest, I sometimes even ask myself if I’m genuinely praying.  Am I genuinely bringing my/other’s worries to the Lord?  Am I even praying when others are around, or am I just saying words that sound good…?

Just as we near the end of the chapter, Jesus speaks about the temptations to sin.  Here, we learn the gravity of sin.  While I’m sure the gravity of sin is unexplainable, it’s explained to us in a more relatable way: the maiming of the body.  Obviously, no one wants to lose body parts, but the mortification of sin is a must, and the conviction to mortify sin must be similar to the mentality of maiming oneself if it saves their life, in more ways than one (not that it would, but it’s an analogy).

*Man, there’s so much to talk about.  Here’s hoping I’ll remember what to say when I actually get to it…

Divorce has always been a touchy subject, especially for me, with parents split up and all.  But one thing I was glad was talking about parenthood with my estranged father.  How amazing was I able to have a conversation with him, talking about my views of fatherhood, my plans for it and just my approach to it.  I even explained to him that marriage was a gift from God; “What therefore God has joined together, let not a man separate.”  Text speaks for itself.  Yeah, just not super comfortable regurgitating what I said.

Entering the kingdom of God like a child.  There needs to be a childish brashness and seemingly reckless approach in searching for the kingdom of God.  A childish naivety and thirst for knowledge is required, primarily because we will never know everything there is to know about the infinite, yet that should not deter us from yearning for the Lord and His mysteries.  Rather, we should be encouraged to explore more about our faith, whether we are early or well off in our years.  

During my stay in Hong Kong, I managed to talk to my uncle about the materialistic mindset that many Hong Kong citizens harbour.  Immediately this passaged popped into my head, but the next thing that popped up were questions: Am I not the same as these people?  Would I be able to sell everything and/or live the minimalist life?  If I was in the same position as the rich young man, would I have done the same as him?

Even though the disciples weren’t able to discern what Jesus meant when He was foretelling His death, how depressing was it to hear it?  That a very close friend was going to be mocked, laughed at, humiliated, and killed and there is nothing that can be done.  Suddenly, I’m beginning to understand why Peter said what he said earlier.  He loved Jesus, and I’m sure he meant well.  However, it was still wrong of the apostles to have made their own assumptions of what the Messiah will do and how He’ll save.  Peter and the others also believed that Jesus was a military messiah, but little did they know Jesus was the Messiah of messiahs, the King of kings and it’s unfortunate they were blind to such truth.

 

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Mark 7-8

As we read in Mark 7, Jesus calls the Pharisees out on their hypocrisy.  The Pharisees have essentially distorted the laws and traditions to suit their own needs and lifestyles as they saw fit.  Very similar to Christians who distort the gospel to suit their sin-picking at the gospel, taking parts they agree with while leaving the parts that “offend” them.  The gospel is meant to be offensive to the sinner within all of us.  Following Christ requires us to deny ourselves daily.  Sure, it’s not an easy thing, but a wise man once told me that perhaps being a Christian is one of the most mature (well, he said manly but bear with me) things, if not than the most mature thing a person could ever hope to accomplish.  Because it requires daily sacrifice, and commitment, two things I (admittedly) need to work on.

In chapter 8, light is shed on the blindness of the Pharisees and Jesus’ exasperation with them.   No, I’m not talking about physical blindness, but rather ignorance and denial.  They demanded that Jesus reveal signs to them, but as we read in Mark 16, Jesus simply tells them even if signs were to be revealed to them, the Pharisees would just distort and misinterpret; that such a perverse generation will not be seeing (maybe even unable?) to see what is before them.

Funny how Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ and yet also denies Him.  Okay, poor choice of words as that isn’t very funny at all.

Mark 5-6

Before I get serious about my blog, I just wanted to voice how cool it was that Bioware borrowed Mark 5:9 to use in Mass Effect 2. “Legion” is the name given to one of their best designed characters.  Anyways, onto the relevant side of things.  

Chapter 5 is an interesting segment.  Here we are introduced to a powerful demon (Legion) and even though the demon was powerful to completely overtake a man, giving him superhuman strength and insanity, Legion submitted itself to the authority of Jesus.  Now, I’m not saying that Jesus controls demons, but rather even powerful demons were able recognize Jesus’ holiness and authority.  As Jesus departed the region, He denies the formerly oppressed man’s request to join the apostles, but instead tells him to share what He has done and the mercy that was shown.  After reading that part, I could not help but think of myself and my siblings in Christ, how all of us lived in sin oppressed lives.  Some of us more in the deeper, darker depths of sin, while others in the more shallow depths.  I’m not saying there is a gradient scale when it comes to sin (sin is sin, regardless of how “little” or “big” it seems).  However, Christ showed equal mercy to all of us.  I’m sure the demon oppressed man was very recognizable with the cuts and scars.  When he walked into town, people would’ve immediately know of him as the demon oppressed man, but instead of spewing demonic palaver, he’s praising and worshiping Jesus for what He’s done.  Likewise, I’m sure we Christians carry cuts and scars (maybe literally) from our previous sinful lives.  There will be people that recognize us because of our old lives, but let us proclaim our Lord’s name whilst acting out the gospel and these witnesses will be able to testify there has been a change in us.

One thing that keeps bothering me is Judas.  Aside from the fact he is going to betray Jesus, I keep getting surprised by being reminded Judas was an apostle that was given authority to cast out unclean spirit, that he was sent out to preach and teach.  

Interesting.  Herod feared yet liked John the Baptist.  Evidently, John called Herod out on his sin and probably among other things, but instead, his righteousness and holiness kept a powerful figure at bay, and even impressed said figure.  

Even though I know it was a miracle, it’s amazing to read that Jesus fed five thousand people.  Two hundred denarii (plural of denarius) worth of bread needed to be bought and a denarius was equivalent to day’s wage for an honest labourer.  That’s two hundred day’s worth of work!  But in the end, the Lord provides and even a seemingly measly meal was turned into a fulfilling meal for five thousand.  Reading this, there’s a realization that regardless of how little I eat for the day, the fact that I got to eat in the first place is another reason to thank God for His providence.

Mark 3-4

Whoa.  Jesus was angry (Mark 3:5)? Jesus is in the process of teaching the Pharisees about the meaning behind the Sabbath, and I must admit I was taken back by the use of the word “angry”.  Maybe it’s just the translation, as I’m sure Mark was using a Greek word that could only be translated in English as “angry”.  So it’s safe to assume Jesus was angry, but it’s obviously more of a “frustration-man-you-guys-clearly-don’t-get-it-angry” as opposed to an “angry-angry”.  Again, I’m not surprised the Pharisees began plotting to harm Jesus.  Looking from their perspective, a random guy just defied/insulted that Sabbath, a tradition that goes all the way back to the time of Moses.  Regardless, Jesus had every right to (He is 100% God too), especially when the religious practices of the Jewish community had turned the Sabbath (and many other “traditions”) into a pale reflection of it’s original glory.  However, the glory of the old covenant pales compared to the subsequent glories of Christ.

Again, we need to remember that Mark is written based on Peter’s preaching.  I’m not entirely sure if this is me reading into it too much, but there is ever so slight of an exaggeration in verse 9, that the crowd was so great it could’ve trampled over Jesus.  Maybe the crowd was ridiculously big, yet I could not help but shake the feeling that there was indeed a personal observation in verse 9.  I’m not doubting the authenticity of Peter’s words, but it’s possible this was just the way Peter described the crowd following Jesus.

Segwaying into chapter 4, I was chilling with a sister at Starbucks after having dinner and we talked about a number of things.  She brought up the parable of the seed growing.  I’ll admit, I breezed over it whenever I read Mark.  But as I reread the parable, she reminds me growth can go two ways: it spontaneously reveals itself, or it takes a little longer.  Everyone is going to go at different paces of growth, and everyone will experience both types.  I think it’ll help if I stop being proud and understand I still have a long way to go.  But that’s obviously easier said than done.

Mark 1-2

And so the reading plan for Allan’s bootcamp brings us back to the gospels, only this time, it’s the Gospel according to Mark.

I’ve wondered why the first chapter of Mark immediately started at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but after looking into the context of the book of Mark, it’s understood that Mark was writing based of what Peter’s preaching.  We are quickly brought back up to speed, with John the Baptist being the faithful servant by preparing the way for Christ, and Christ starting His ministry by casting out demons and sicknesses as well as preaching along the way.  One thing strikes me every time and that’s the fact that Jesus almost all the time charged people not to speak of His work.  Perhaps that’s His way of ensuring the prophecies made by the prophets of the OT be fulfilled? Or maybe it’s all part of the plan, that things need to happen the way they happen, such as the apostles needing to reach the time when they will confess Him as the Christ or the Pharisees and leaders of the Jewish faith needed to be shaken up.  Now that I think about it, I’m going to search a little deeper…

In the gospels, we can see there is a consistency of events, that a truth has been told for generations.  And I guess one could say that it’s within our duty as salt and light to perserve and shed light on the entirety of the gospel.  Making a bit of a jump there, but if someone reads it and inquires, I’ll explain.

Colossians 3-4

I may have mentioned this before in a previous blog post, or even vocalized it during a random conversation: I’m genuinely frustrated by lukewarm Christians.  They call themselves Christians, yet the only difference in their lives is the cross hanging around their neck.  They continue indulging in the sins they believed they were saved from!  Shouldn’t such things be revolting to the point of hurling?  Even Christ, Himself, said to the church of Laodecia in Revelations 3:16 that He will “spit you out” because of their lukewarmness.  How frightening is it to hear, that Christ would rather you be hot (especially hot) or cold to Him, than sitting on the fence that so many Christians do nowadays…

I’m not saying Christians don’t sin anymore.  In fact, knowing that I sin everyday is perhaps the must gut wrenching, heart breaking revelation I’ve had the blessing to realize.  I call it a blessing because I know I need grace everyday and I have a Saviour who has (and is) so loving and gracious to me.  But as Christians, we are to continuously deny our natural urges to be sexually immoral, to covet what others have, to idolize creation, the slanderous and unGod glorifying remarks and so forth.  Instead, we are to exhibit humility (funny how our society today has turned the word “humility” into something negative), forgiveness, just a daily desire to be more Christ-like.  Prayer and Scripture reading are just some of numerous acts one can do to pursue the Lord.

 

Colossians 1-2

How blessed are we to be able to pray and directly commune with God, the sovereign creator and ruler of everything.  Reading what Paul has been praying for the Colossian church was encouragement and reminder to me on what I should really be praying for.  Of course, I can boldly yet reverently approach the Lord with my struggles and lay them at His feet.  But ultimately, I am  to pray that His will be done, to constantly pursue Him, wisdom and maturity to learn what His will is and the strength as well as confidence to live out the Christian calling.  So often are we caught in our troubles that we forget that our lives are not for ourselves but for the Lord.  And it is vital we continue praying for fellow brothers and sisters (as well ourselves) to remember that and to constantly seek His kingdom.

Reading chapter 2 while also preparing myself for baptism was quite refreshing.  Rather it was a good review, re-examining the symbolism of baptism, and what Christ did on the cross (14: by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross).  Paul also reminds us to be constantly mindful of snares the world will lay out for us, to disqualify us and our faith in Christ.  This world will find numerous ways to add and/or take away from the gospel, but as Christians, we are to take the gospel at face value, and to live the gospel in it’s entirety, not with additions nor subtractions.  Too often has the gospel been distorted to suit one’s sinful life.