Where the Action is – Mark 6:31

Vol. 2, No. 35 – 8-27-2017

He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” [For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.]. Mark 6:31

Many times we just fill our days with busyness. We think that we are productive in doing so; however, being effective is really hard work!

When a [person] does not know what harbor [they are] heading for, no wind is the right wind.  — Seneca, Roman philosopher

If you cannot come apart from your work at the time of need, a time of contemplation, you will actually just come apart. Maturity and efficiency do not become best “buds” without coming apart so that one can grow. We can call this “quality time” or we can term this time as an investment and reflection for our future days. What do you prefer to do with your time; it has an outcome!

It has always tickled me when I hear believers utter that they need to go on a retreat. Christians do not retreat, they advance. Coming apart without seeking to advance is not heading with the right wind at your back!

Have you contemplated the purpose of Jesus in calling His own disciples aside?

  • A hard tour of ministry had just concluded. Perhaps some set-aside time would refresh His followers for advancement; after all, the tour had been stressful.
  • John the Baptist was just martyred. Perhaps some set-aside time would be important for these disciples.
  • Maybe it was time for some vacation; after all, do we all not deserve some R&R? Scripture is full of vacations—is it not?
  • Maybe it was time to just get away from people; the crowd, the relatives, the neighbors, or even the bosses—they are a bother—are they not?
  • Maybe retirement would be good; after all the Bible speaks often about our personal retirement benefits–does it not? Who is retirement for, if it is not for our own personal wants?

If we are going to seek after the “quality” life, the “good life,” we need to pay for a seminar for preparation—do we not? Or, should that be our purpose in setting ourselves aside for a time? How many of us look forward to going to a seminar or speaking series, only to find that suddenly there are demands on our time just as we are getting ready for our “get-away”?

Slow yourself for a moment. Take your foot off of your accelerator. Perhaps what you really need is just a quiet place to quiet your heart. It does not take a trip or a seminar, or a “retreat” to accomplish this need. It is true that we live in a chaotic time, a frenzied world at best. It seems that there is much to do, and so little time to accomplish what we place before ourselves as “necessary.” We need to SLOW for a moment, park under a broom tree and contemplate. Who are we depending on, and is the One we depend on dependable?

Do you ever “have to” listen to someone talk about how hard they work? How they have not even taken a vacation (in over 30 years and they are only 29)! That they have not stopped since they left for elementary school, walking through knee-high snow uphill to school and uphill in knee-high snow to return downhill home. They do not even get to see their family because it is dark when they leave for work, and dark when they return home from work. Nothing, they say, can happen without their presence or input—only they know “how to do what needs to be done.”

This kind of person seldom succeeds and the most important things of life get set aside. This person is to be pitied. Life is at risk. Danger lurks. Not that they retire, they just die early, in their self-centeredness.

I wonder if Jesus had in mind the long-term effects of just working all the time. These followers were seemingly successful; however, they could easily become workaholics. Our work generally expands to fill all of our time. Work becomes the drone of life and a liability. When the body cries out for relief, and the spirit desires quiet, and the mind wants some alone time, work takes priority and life ebbs away.

Only the physically fit, the mentally alert, the spiritually attuned, and the one whose relationship is constant with the Lord will truly succeed with the demands that life brings.

In reality, our lives on the earth are only for a short time; we do need a place of contemplation; a place to come apart so that we can advance the kingdom. Not long ago I wrote my second book (the first was actually a doctorial project). The title of the book: Under the Broom Tree: Contemplations of Life and Service, is germane to the theme of this particular blog.

When we feel trodden down, bruised, needing repair, and in despair, where is our Broom Tree that we might set ourselves aside for rest and contemplation. We, every one of us, need to have a Broom Tree. Otherwise, we will eventually fail in our efforts to succeed. It is under the Broom Tree that we can contemplate our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Without that relationship we will never have anything more than a drive to be successful or being busy in life—and we will spin our proverbial wheels.

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

Who are you Facing Today? – Mark 5:2

Vol. 2, No. 34 – 8-20-2017

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. Mark 5:2

When you step into your intended destination, what do you expect to see; expect to encounter? Life brings surprises and one must be prepared for the surprises that come. Jesus comes face-to-face with not just someone acting crazy, but a demoniac.

When I taught on world religions, the cults, and the occult, I spent some time dealing with demonology. Some people think that you can just prescribe pills and all this will go away. However, the Scriptures describe this man as totally possessed, chained mentally and physically, speaking as a person possessed with evil, self-abusing, and relegated to the graveyard. He also had tremendous strength.

Demonology brings occult worship to its worst levels. Included in this horrendous life are the general areas of:

  • Satan worship
  • Wiccan and witchcraft
  • New Age and many other cults
  • Astrology, fortune telling, and palm reading
  • Human trafficking and slavery
  • Drug addiction (prescription, illicit, and alcohol)
  • Unbiblical practices and beliefs; perversions of truth

He had superhuman strength, and there were only savage attempts to tame him by force, as if he were a beast. Fetters and manacles had been snapped like ribbons by him. Restless, sleepless, hating men, he had made the night hideous with his wild shrieks. Insensible to pain, and deriving some dreadful satisfaction from his own wounds, he had gashed himself with splinters of rock, and howled, in a delirium of pain and pleasure, at the sight of his own blood. —Alexander Maclaren

I have thought about Maclaren’s remark when counseling young people (most often female) on the impact of their cutting habits. You never have habits; habits have you.

The possessed man saw Jesus from a distance and quickly ran toward him—naked, bleeding, half-shackled—falling at the feet of the Son of God. Jesus asks his name. He replies, “Legion; there are thousands of us.” He beseeched Jesus to send them away.

A great herd of hogs was on the hillside; the demons implored Jesus to send them into the hogs instead of doing away with them; exiling them to the locked arena of damnation. Then the herd, infested with demons,  stampeded down the hillside and off the cliff into the water below. All drowned. The owners of the hogs, surprisingly Jewish, were livid. They were making a living from animals they would not even eat. They were more interested in income than being interested in the care of the man who needed restored. Their losses sparked them to demand Jesus leave.

Jesus came and immediately helped the demoniac be restored; He, Jesus, leaves as He does not remain where He is not wanted. Jesus had the ability to bring peace to the demoniac. He teaches those who would minister to others, regardless of the venue, to remain focused on those who desire the restored life.

God reaches into the heart of those He chooses to aid others; to reach out with His purpose. With every act a believer is to intentionally bring others to know Christ. The wild people of the earth need and desire restoration; healing is available from God. God knows exactly what the unregenerate need for life and He chooses us to be His messenger of hope and reconciliation.

God calls each of us to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17f). He does not have us to form an evangelizing committee, hire an outreach minister, select certain of the believers to do this work; He chooses every believer to do this work.

We do live in a world of great turmoil and demoniac influenced people. When we get off our “rusty dusties,” get out of our boats, we may face a youngster who is influenced through illicit drug use, a person that cuts themselves to relieve the emotional pain steeped inside, a person angry at their parents or the school they must attend, a person that thinks the world owes them a living. What are you going to say to that person? Will you simply respond with surprise at their condition?

Or will you be prepared for the person crossing your path—no one crosses our path by accident. Life for the believer, including those serving as leaders, is not tranquil.

Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 11-13

Who or what are you facing at this very moment?

Are We There Yet? – Mark 5:1

Vol. 2, No. 33 – 8-13-2017

And they came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. Mark 5:1

The Gospel of Mark opens with a declaration of the gospel being present in Jesus Christ. Also, John the Baptist is introduced as a voice crying out from the wilderness—it is quite a picture. Jesus comes upon the scene and is baptized by John. Following the baptism, the author reports that Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.

The Greek phrase is that “as he came teaching the gospel of God.” As Jesus walked along, He taught. (Mark 1:14; Matthew 9:35). This became the norm of Jesus’ presentations to people of the earth. He traveled; walked about and taught. He accumulated disciples and had major impact on the people that gathered.

While he traveled with his disciples, they were just like our children, asking if they were there yet; and how long it would take to get to where they were going—wherever where was. I have found in life that going places is not as simple as moving from point one to point two. There are always things that come up, things that interfere, schedule changes, and unexpected needs.

In the summer of 2016, my wife Donna and I made a journey of almost 4200 miles. Things did not go as planned. We were to attend three reunions, visit with our children, visit with Donna’s mom, and attend a musical presentation at Sight and Sound in Strasburg PA. While in Ohio Donna’s mom took a turn and wound up in the hospital. After she was released we drove to NY and attended a memorial service, unanticipated, for the father of one of our daughters-in-law. Then it was on to eastern NY, where we received notification that Donna’s mom was placed in palliative care; shortly afterwards her mom went home to be with the Lord. We returned to Ohio for the funeral. Going from point one to point two does not always go as planned.

Jesus was taking His disciples to the other side of the sea. While nothing was a surprise to Him; a major surprise occurred with the disciples. It was night, Jesus in sleeping at the back of the boat, and a horrendous storm arose—as if “out of the blue.” So great a storm that the disciples thought they might die.

Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? Mark 4:38b

Jesus simply rises from the cushion, and quietly (I am supposing here) speaks.

Hush, be still—and the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. Mark 4:39b

Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith? Mark 4:40

The question is really: “What are you doing with your faith?” Their mouths hung open (at least that is the picture in my mind).

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him? Mark 4:41b

Who is this? This is God!

~The same God who spoke man into existence and breathed life into man                                     ~The same God who caused a wind from the east to part the Red Sea, drying it up to provide a dry   path for walking                                                                                                                                  ~The same God that shut the mouths of lions while Daniel stood and prayed in their midst            ~The same God that caused Lazarus to come forth from the grave—once dead now alive           ~The same God who will return to take His own to live with Him eternally

My sons were always asking if we were there yet. The answer should always be: “Do you guys know where you are headed? Are you going from point one to point two; from life on the earth to life eternally? I do not want you headed to point three; the one that goes down! It matters not what the difficulties of life bring; it is about where you are headed.

We all step into rocking boats in our lives. Life really does offer struggles. Faith carries us through the storms of life. In the process our character is built. We do not do well just floating on smooth seas. We do much better when we are allowed to see the same God who is sovereign, full of grace and mercy, and has a deep love for every one He has created.

What are you doing with the Supreme God who has a vested interest in you? It matters not whether you live a “normal” life or are in place as a leader; things do not always go as planned.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Do not quit; God is still on the throne!

 

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