Monthly Archives: September 2012

God’s Fierce Faithfulness for You

“Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”  And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.  No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins.  But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”    Mark 2:18-22

As Jesus’ ministry gains traction, this passage helps us see that he is the promised Lord–the God of all who longs to be united to the true Israel in fidelity and passion like a husband to his wife.  Key verses that prophesied this are found in Isaiah 62:1-5 and Hosea 2:19-20.  Both sections describe the coming day when God’s presence will be so intrinsically bound and connected with His people that no other metaphor is sufficient to describe it–hence the husband/wife imagery we see here.  To be certain, in this passage Jesus is making a claim to be God Himself, for this role was for no other than the Lord of His people.

This introduces us to something almost too good to believe.  As a follower of Jesus, God is fiercely committed to you.  Think of it like this:  If you could take all the love, passion, devotion, and faithfulness that every newly wed husband has for his bride from all of human history combined–and bottle it all up and put it in one person, it still doesn’t compare with the amount of love and care that Jesus has for you.

Then Jesus challenges us to live in the light of this reality.  And when we do, we can no longer live as before.  That’s the point about the piece of cloth being sewn onto an old garment; or the new wine being put into old wineskins.  They simply won’t do.

Everything has to be completely different.  In other words, you can’t just “apply” Jesus to your life.  You can’t add him like a patch to your dreams and desires.  He must now be the epitome of your dreams and desires.  Nothing else compares–hence the new cloth and the new wineskins that are needed.

I remember a few years ago a certain car commercial for an SUV.  It showed a man buying the SUV and driving it all over the world in a mosaic of various adventures (think of the desert sands of the Sahara and the jungles of the Amazon).  All the while, his clothes are becoming more and more ragged, his appearance unkempt, and his beard gets longer and longer.  But he’s loving every minute of it–for now his life is complete.  Each new adventure is in answer to a whisper-like call from above that beckons “Go Farther!”

The commercial ends with the man on a make-shift wooden raft floating with his beloved SUV down an unknown river in some forgotten place.  As he’s standing there in complete satisfaction, the voice from above now sounds, “Too Far!” as the man suddenly and unexpectedly nears a waterfall.

I think if we’re honest, most of us are fearful of this very possibility.  We afraid to really risk it all for Christ in reckless abandon, ever seeking to answer the call to “Go Farther!” because we’re fearful that one day we’ll have pushed the limits too far only to find ourselves perilously going over a water fall in hopeless horror.

But when you know God as your Husbandman, things change.  When you can rest in the fierce love and faithfulness that Christ has for you–you can never go too far.  You wake up everyday knowing that no matter happens, you belong to the King.  And He knows how to take care of who belongs to Him.

Go ahead, get in the SUV of your new-found faith in Christ.  Commit yourself in a fresh way to follow him on a path of adventure to who knows where.  You’ll never hear the words “Too Far!”–but one day you might just hear him say, “Well done!”

Application Questions:

1.  On a scale of 1-10, how much of this passage do you honestly relate to?  What would it take to bump it up a notch?

2.  Do you know of anyone who lives by this passage?  What can you learn from them about following Jesus?

3.  What’s holding you back from a fresh faith commitment to Christ?  How is it holding you back?  What is Jesus challenging you to do about that right now?

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The Unseen Guest in Your Stress and Mess

“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”   Mark 2:15-17

Imagine you are on a nice, all-expenses paid Mediterranean cruise.  You spend your days with friends enjoying the luxurious surroundings and endless buffets of food.  This is your vacation–you’ve earned it.  Every other day you pull into port and do a little shopping and other fun activities like snorkeling and island adventures as time allows.

Upon one port–the best of them all–the possibilities seem endless.  You look over the menu of activities and are sad that you can only choose two when there are over a dozen listed!  If only you could spend an entire week here!

But to your surprise, your friends decide to do something completely out-of-the-box.  Instead of chasing after fun, they decide to visit the local hospital to spread some good cheer–and they want you to tag along.  You reluctantly agree–even though you’ve always wanted to go horseback riding on the beach and zip-lining through the green jungle.  Instead you now find yourself in the local hospital visiting people who seldom see anyone.  You may not realize it, but you’ve just gone from being a tourist to being a care-giver.

And yet this is exactly what Jesus does–and more–in coming to us.  Giving up the joys of Heaven, he comes to our world and welcomes us sinners.  He opens up his home (his presence) to us–just like he did in this story in Mark 2:15-17.  He shares his presence with us–enjoys life with us–as he draws us closer and closer to himself.

Jesus seemed to go where few others wanted to go.  And he hung around those that religious people despised.  And this is exactly the kind of savior that we need.

Think about it this way.  If we had a savior who made us clean up for him, then he’d be a reformist.  He’d challenge you to do better–to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and try harder.  But that’s not the Jesus that is presented to us in Scripture.

If we had a savior who only hung around certain people, then he’d be an elitist.  He’d always leave you wondering if you were good enough to be in his special club.

And the list goes on.  But notice what Jesus does in this passage.  He invites the outcasts to his home.  He feeds them.  And they fellowship together–much to the chagrin of the religious status quo.

This means that he also wants to do the same for you.  In your mess–in your stress–Jesus wants to be present.  Just let that truth sink in–and no moment will ever be the same.

 

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Two Simple Words That Can Change Your LIfe

“He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.  And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.”  And he rose and followed him.”   Mark 2:13-14

Imagine the scene.  Levi, an established businessman (tax collector), is busy at his trade.  One day Jesus walks up, and with two simple words completely turns his life upside down.  Jesus looks him in the eye, and simply says, “Follow me” and Levi gets up and leaves everything behind.

Notice what Jesus didn’t offer.  He didn’t promise that things would get better.  He didn’t promise that Levi would have a more “successful life” or a nicer house to live in.  There are  lot of things that Jesus didn’t promise Levi.

But notice what Jesus did promise him:  the gift of himself.  Jesus promised Levi a future that was sure of one thing:  Jesus would be in it front and center.  And for Levi, that was enough.

It was enough because it was more than anything else he had.  He had a “career” that was as stable as the Roman government–and that was a sure bet back then.  And, he had money–lots of it.  Being a tax collector was a lucrative career–even though others viewed you as a ‘Benedict Arnold’ traitor because you had joined the other team–the Romans.  But none of that mattered now, because he left it all to gain Jesus.

What would it take for you to give up everything–to quit chasing after “stuff”–so you can really focus on following Jesus?  What would that look like for you?

To be honest–you don’t know.  In fact, none of us know.  When Jesus called him, Levi didn’t really know.

But that’s not the point.  We crave clarity–Jesus wants us to crave trust.  Want clarity?  Then don’t follow Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t promise that — he only promises you the one thing you need the most:  himself.

Application Questions:

1.  At what stage are you in this story?  You’re busy with your career…Jesus is approaching you…Jesus is looking into your eyes…Jesus is challenging you to follow him…you are deciding what to do?

2.  Does Jesus really ask people to give up everything to follow him?  Why or why not?

3.  How do you know if you’re really following Jesus?

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