Our Glory vs. His Mercy

Mark 10 concludes with two different stories.

The first story involves James and John (Matthew’s gospel includes their mother as well) approaching Jesus saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (vs. 35). Is this not a striking thing to hear someone say to Jesus? I can’t even imagine attempting to say something like this to my parents and it ending well for me. Much less to Jesus Himself?? To James, John, and their mother: bold. move. Nonetheless, Jesus responds with, “What do you want me to do for you?” (vs. 36). They reply, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (vs. 37). Now, the story goes on but I am going to pause here and move on to the second story for just a minute.

The second story involves a blind man, named Bartimaeus, who, when He heard that Jesus was passing by, verses 47- 48 tell us “he began to cry out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!”. Jesus then asks Bartimaeus , “What do you want me to do for you?” (vs. 51). He replies, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

So, in these two different stories I can’t help but see a few similarities. I tried my best to briefly sum up the majority of these two stories in the same way so that you can easily see them. One, both stories involve someone approaching Jesus. Two, both stories involve Jesus asking the exact same question, “What can I do for you?”. Three, both stories reveal a type of motive when approaching Jesus. I believe there is a lot to take away from the third similarity. Here’s why.

James and John belonged to Jesus’ “inner circle”. This being the main reason I was so taken back by their approach to Jesus. “Hey, Jesus, um, real quick…me and my brother want you to give us whatever we ask for and for starters we would like to be seated next to you, you know…in that special position of honor in your glory.” This approach seems a little arrogant, self-centered, and “gimme-gimme”. I wouldn’t expect a couple of guys that were so close with Jesus to be so demanding of getting what they wanted out of Him and about as blunt as you can be about it (ouch…this hurt me just typing it because I can be so guilty of this). 

On the other hand, Bartimaeus, someone who was blind, not in Jesus’ “inner circle”, and rebuked by many for reaching out to Jesus, approaches Him by saying, “Have mercy on me!”. What a contrast! This approach seems much more genuine, humble, and, in a good way, broken.

I believe 100% that God desires we go to Him. God wants a relationship with His people. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we now have access to Almighty God and He welcomes us with open arms–always. However, what do our motives in going to Him look like? Are they prideful, “wish-list-like”, and demanding–expecting to get what we want or what we think we deserve? Or is our approach one that is broken, constantly seeking the mercy of God before seeking anything else He can bless us with?

The disciples missed the point (as do I far too often). They approached Jesus to get something out of it. I talked with my brother Stephen on the phone this morning about this passage and he said something short, but quite profound, “The disciples wanted the glory without having to deal with the cup. You cannot have the glory without the cup.” Meaning, Jesus was going to suffer and die, and as a result, His followers are going to suffer. The disciples skipped over asking for peace through the suffering, or the strength to persevere. They went straight for the “good stuff”. They went to Jesus to hear what they wanted to hear and to get what they wished for. Instead, Jesus had to teach them yet again the importance of servant leadership and thinking about the interests of others before their own (vs. 43-45). Jesus is attempting to heal their spiritual blindness, just as much as He would later go on to heal the physical blindness of Bartimaeus, who after became a follower of Jesus (vs. 52)! God always has a way of prioritizing our spiritual needs above our physical ones.

So, if Jesus asked you today, “What do you want me to do for you?”, what would your response be? Would we be more concerned with our glory or His mercy?

Jesus, help me to respond to and approach You the way Bartimaeus did. May I first recognize my brokenness and need for Your mercy above any other physical need or want that I may have. May I first acknowledge who You are rather than what You can do for me. Keep me from treating you like a genie in a bottle or a Santa Claus, because my faith in You is not a blind one. You will always come through. Jesus, may you be treasured.

 

 

 

“to the praise of his glory”

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him, you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it to the praise of his glory.” – Ephesians 1:11-14

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have been going through a devotional called “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp.

Today’s quiet time was rooted in Ephesians 1:11-14 as cited above. One of the lines that stood out to me was “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will”. Wow! All things?? Every single thing that happens in my life, whether really good or really bad, is in accordance to the purpose and will of God?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”. Our salvation in Jesus through His gospel? God purposed it. The most challenging situation that you are currently facing? God purposed it. The “mountain top” season that you are experiencing right now? God purposed it. I can’t help but restate the first one: our salvation in Jesus through His gospel? God purposed it. I am so thankful that God’s grace is greater than all my sin. I am so thankful that it is not my works that earn merit with God, because if it was, I would be in quite some trouble. Thank you, Jesus, for your life-changing grace.

I find that there is so much peace in serving a God that works “all things according to the counsel of his will”. This has got to be one of the most encouraging and uplifting things in all of the Bible. Regardless of the circumstance, good or bad, God is in control of it all and is proving that He cares for His children (Psalm 103:13) and that His ways are better than ours. And because He is in control of it all, may we worship Him “to the praise of His glory” (vs. 12,14)!

There is a song that I stumbled upon the other day while driving called, “Hills and Valleys”. Here are some of the lyrics:

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the one who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!
You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Whether you are on the mountain top or in the valley, God is working according to His purpose for you. There is peace and comfort in that! May our hearts, in every situation, proclaim, “yet not I, but through Christ in me!” and for the praise of His glory.

#GraceandTruth

 

New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp

Once again (unfortunately…well, for me at least), it has been a couple months since the last time I decided to sit down and write about what God has been doing and teaching me.

A few months ago, I purchased a daily devotional by a man named Paul David Trip called, “New Morning Mercies”. In the past, I have typically studied books of the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter. However, for the last several weeks (not always as consistently as I should I must confess) I have taken a break from that approach to my quiet time and have been reading Tripp’s daily gospel centered devotionals coupled with a text of Scripture that he recommends for further study and encouragement.

If you follow me on social media at all, then you have probably seen several reoccurring posts such as my trips to Spill the Beans in Downtown Greenville, my attempts to be humorous, and quotes from this devotional. So, rather than just quotes, I figured I would take some time to explain a couple of the things that God has been teaching me and reminding me of lately. My hope and prayer is that these concepts are just as encouraging and applicable for you as well!

  • It’s only in the mirror of God’s Word that you see yourself accurately, and only in his grace that you find help for what you see.” The world wants to tell you so much about who you are or who you should be, we pridefully lie to ourselves daily about who we think we are (and who others are), and often times we allow our experiences (high and low), social media, family, friends, etc. to define who we are. However, it is only through the revealed Word of God that we can truly see who we are at our core and it is only through the grace of God that we can find restoration, genuine meaning, and a real purpose. Thank you, Jesus, for being both the means and the ends of what my life (and the lives of fellow Believers) should look like.
  • “Only when God is your hope is your hope sure and secure. Only he is able to give you the life that your heart seeks. Only he is able to give your soul the rest that it needs. Only he can deliver the internal peace that is the hunger of every human being… if your hope disappoints you, it’s because it’s the wrong hope.” We hope that our favorite teams win, we hope to see family for special occasions, we hope that we receive the gifts we request at Christmas time, we hope in this and we hope in that. Although none of these things in and of themselves are wrong or sinful, they will all disappoint at one time or another. Our teams lose. Our families don’t meet every expectation. We don’t always get what we want. But one thing that is certain, is that when our sole hope and trust is in the God of the universe, He will never disappoint us or let us down. He always comes through. He is forever faithful! He provides the peace that we seek, the rest that we need, and the love that we long for. Thank you, Jesus, for being the source of a never-failing hope!
  • “Love means unity is more important to you than being right, having your way, and getting what you want.” I don’t know about you, but this one hit me right in the gut. Pride (being right, having my way, getting what I want) is anti-love. May I seek to consistently practice Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If I am going to call myself a Christ-Follower and love the way Jesus loves, then I have to be willing to give up my own selfish desires and place Jesus and others before myself. Yes, so much easier said than done most of the time, but well worth the battle. Thank you, Jesus, for never forsaking the needs of others, and ultimately sacrificing Yourself to demonstrate the purest form of selfless love.

Jesus, be treasured!

#GraceandTruth

 

“…help my unbelief!”

If there is anything that is certain in this life, then it has got to be uncertainty. We could never 100% know what tomorrow holds. We do not always have the answer to the question, “Why?”. We constantly struggle with everyday life choices because we do not know which experts to trust or who offers the most accurate information or best deal. Which politician or what product is the most reliable? The list and scenarios go on and on. At every turn, it seems as if uncertainty is lurking.

There once was a man who had a son that had a very serious issue. This boy was possessed by an unclean spirit and, as a result, caused the boy to experience scary, harmful seizures. The father wisely brings his son to the only person that would be capable of ridding his son of this torment–Jesus (Mark 9:14-29).

Both Jesus and the father say something quite remarkable. Jesus tells the man, “…all things are possible for the one who believes.” Now, I don’t want to just throw this verse out there and tell you to apply it to any given situation and you will automatically get your answers and the results that you want. That is not in any case what this means. However, the truth remains that there is nothing impossible for God. Therefore, this gives us all the more reason to have faith in Him! If we truly do believe that God is in control over everything that happens, then we can equally agree that there is nothing that God cannot do in our lives and in any given situation–“all things are possible for the one who believes.”

Now, I think that statement is pretty remarkable and the implications of it so freeing. But you are probably reading and thinking, “Well, duh…of course all things are possible with God..not something I didn’t already know, how is that remarkable? I think it is remarkable because of its truth, but also because of how it leads the father (and sometimes myself) to respond–which I also find remarkable. The father cries out and says, “I believe; help my unbelief!”.

Dang…what an honest statement. This father claims that he does indeed believe Jesus, he does, in fact, have faith in Jesus and His power. But at the same time he admits to unbelief, a lack of faith, and wisely asks Jesus to help him out with that.

I can identify with this father so well on this level. I can honestly say that I believe 100% that the God of the universe is a sovereign God. I believe in His power and that nothing is impossible for Him. He controls absolutely everything and is working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28) and, more importantly, for His glory. I can also honestly say that I sometimes lack faith. At times, I lack trust. In the midst of so much uncertainty, so much confusion, or in any particular struggle, I know that God is faithful, but sometimes the “not knowing” gets the best of me and I can so easily begin to doubt–asking stupid, accusatory questions towards God Himself and point my finger at so many different things. But eventually, God brings me to a place of repentance. He brings me to a place of “Silas, what are you thinking? Why are you doubting me?” And my only response is a face-palm, recognizing my lack of faith. But it is in these moments–in the confession of imperfect faith– that Jesus imputes His perfect peace, wisdom, and guidance. I do not need all the answers. I do not need all the boxes checked. But what I do need is to trust the work of God, and even in my unbelief, call on to Jesus–just as the father in Mark 9 did. 

So, just as certain as I am in the uncertainty of life, I am just as certain in the One who is above all things. My dad used to always say, “What is over your head is still under His feet.” We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. We are going to experience tough, seemingly unfair, confusing, and troubling things. And in the midst of all these things and all the uncertainty and lack of faith, God is faithful and will always show you why He can be trusted.

#GraceandTruth

 

Mark 7:1-23

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Relationship Over Religion”. This post was derived from my personal reading of Mark 3 and the biggest takeaway for me could be summed up by the last sentence of the post, “May we refrain from religion, but rejoice in relationship with Jesus.” Meaning, may we seek to truly know and experience a relationship with Jesus, rather than following extrabiblical traditions, false teaching, man-made religious rules, and other things that do not come from God or seem ‘good’ but in reality lead us astray–much like how the Pharisees, Scribes, and other religious leaders lived.

Tonight’s reading was very similar. Tonight, as shown in the title, I read Mark. 7:1-23 and one of the verses that jumped out at me was vs. 13 when Jesus says to the religious leaders, “thus making void the word of God by your tradition…”.

Rather than writing a whole new post about a very similar concept to “Relationship Over Religion”, I would encourage you to get out your Bible, or maybe you have a Bible app on your phone or iPad or something, and read Mark 7:1-23 and take some notes, initial thoughts, mark things or verses that stick out to you. Then, compare them with my notes and please send me an email with what you learn! I do not have all of the answers and I am not saying that you must compare with my notes because I see and know everything, haha! I am curious as to what God teaches you and would love hearing about it! You can send me your notes, questions, or things God had taught you by using the “Contact” page!

Here are my notes:

Mark 7

  • Vs. 1-5= Again, the Pharisees and the Scribes are trying to catch Jesus and His disciples breaking the Law of Moses.
    • Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah, calling them hypocrites!
      • “Their actions are merely external and do not come from the heart” (vs. 6).
      • “Their teachings are not from God but reflect the tradition of men” (vs. 7-8).
    • Again, Jesus is able to point out that the religious leaders care more about their own laws and tradition than  obedience to God—their hearts have not been changed.
      • “Thus making void the word of God by your tradition” (vs. 13)— they lead themselves and others away from God.
  • Vs. 14-23= Jesus responds to their initial question concerning defilement and says that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles a person— “the core problem with defilement is what resides in the heart.”
    • This goes beyond something ceremonial–something only the religious leaders cared about.
  • Although the disciples, many times (including this one), do not understand Jesus’ teaching or parables, they remain with Him and are “gradually learning”.
    • May I never give up on learning things from Jesus and His Word. Especially when I do not initially understand or end up frustrated.
    • They asked Jesus (vs. 17) when they did not understand Him. May this be my response also—going before Him and asking that He would reveal more of Himself and His Truth to me that I may properly apply it to my life.
    • They continued to walk beside Jesus, the Son of God, and the truth of His teaching, and “not walk according to the tradition of the elders” (vs. 5).

#GraceandTruth

Jesus, Our Good Shepherd.

I have once before written a blog about the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14. In that blog  post, I emphasized how Jesus made much of what little the disciples had to work with and how He empowered them to accomplish the task He assigned to them–feeding all those people.

In Mark 6, we will find the same miraculous feeding, and yet I find a different emphasis. It is more so on Jesus, rather than the miracle itself. In chapter 6 verse 34, we read, “and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”

I have an ESV Study Bible, and I find it so very helpful when studying the Scriptures because there is so much commentary that helps explain passages, cross-references with other passages, and more. In regards to verse 34 the commentary says:

“Despite his need for rest, Jesus has compassion: he sees the people as being like sheep without a shepherd. In Ezekiel 34:10-16, God promises to shepherd the people again directly, since Israel’s leaders have failed. Jesus continues to teach them, functioning as the good shepherd who calls for repentant submission to the messianic rule of God.”

Jesus saw that the people were helpless and starving and lacking in spiritual guidance–“like sheep without a shepherd” (vs. 34). As a result of His compassion towards them, Jesus feeds them. He feeds them first spiritually by immediately teaching them. Jesus always seems to care more about the spiritual needs of people, before their physical ones. He then would later feed them physically with only 5 loaves and 2 fish (remember this was more than 5,000 people)!

This miracle reveals so much about the reality of the divine nature of God. Again, my commentary excellently explains this miracle’s implications:

“As the true shepherd, he satisfies them. As God provided manna in the desert, so Jesus provides food in a deserted place (6:35). The focus is thus not on the miracle itself but on the one who worked it. Jesus is not merely a prophet; he acts as God acts.”

Jesus is the good Shepherd (John 10:11) and He will always provide for His sheep. What God promised to His people concerning being their Shepherd in Ezekiel 34, He accomplished in the person of Jesus. In Jesus, we lack nothing that we need. It is in Him that we have our protection, our provision, and our guidance (both spiritually and physically).

Psalm 23:1-4 says,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Jesus, our good Shepherd, be treasured.

#GraceandTruth

 

 

Relationship Over Religion

In my reading through the book of Mark, yesterday I began chapter 3 where Jesus is asking about what is lawful on the Sabbath. He notices a man with a withered hand and the religious leaders watched Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath in order that they may accuse Him. However, Jesus is a step ahead of them. He asked the Pharisees (the religious leaders), “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”. However, the Pharisees were silent and had no response to Jesus’ question. He proceeded to heal the man with a withered hand and was angered by their hardness of heart.

The commentary in my Bible best describes what happened in verses 1-6:

“Jesus is not intimidated by His opponents; he makes the Sabbath healing an intentionally public incident. The silence of the opponents displays their hardness of heart and Jesus’ anger shows that his question, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…’ should have been answered; ‘to do good’. This would not violate the [Old Testament] law, but it would violate the opponent’s extrabiblical, mostly Pharisaic tradition. Their tradition misses the point of the Mosaic law: to love God and one’s neighbor.”

The part of that description from the commentary that drives home Jesus’ point is, “Their tradition misses the point of the Mosaic law: to love God and one’s neighbor”. In this passage, it is clear that the religious leaders would rather keep their own tradition, than to do good for someone on the Sabbath. However, they are perfectly fine with meeting and working together to figure out a way to destroy Jesus immediately after He preforms this miracle (vs. 6, pride will justify so many things). By trying to keep their own laws, they failed to be obedient to the point of God’s. They fail to exemplify their love for God, by not loving their neighbor.

When we try to do things our own way, we miss the point. When we are constantly watching for others to slip up in order to accuse them of ‘wrongdoing’, we are the only ones in the wrong. This is why religion is not the answer. Because even when trying and trying to do ‘good’ and being ‘good enough’ is the only motivation, there is no goodness of God in the heart.

Watchman Nee once said, “Evil is evil and good is evil, if it is not the goodness of God.” Likewise, he would also say that, “Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” This is where the Pharisees, and so many others today, get confused. Religion misses the point. Tradition misses the point. Extrabiblical law misses the point. None of these are genuinely connected with the goodness of God at all.

Christians, we must love God and love others; while rejoicing and being thankful for those who do. May we refrain from the mindset of the Pharisees, seeking only to point the finger and accuse others of when they do not do what we want or what we think is ‘right’ and ‘good’. May we refrain from religion, but rejoice in relationship with Jesus.

#GraceandTruth