If We Could Only Change It: The Choice – 1 – Mark 10:17

Vol. 2, No. 39 – 9-24-2017

And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Mark 10:17

Jesus spoke to the crowds regarding first, the issue of divorce, and then the importance of children upon the earth—their value. As He began to leave toward His next destination, a man comes running up to ask a question that has been bothering him. It is obvious that he has not been listening to the voice of Jesus. Or, he may have been attempting to find an alternative way to have eternal life, so he sought options because he did not particularly like the only path offered.

A picture of many who gather on Sunday mornings.

This picture is of a self-made person, a high achiever, one who seemingly has it all—he must be wealthy and powerful (but it really does not matter). He is an influencer, perhaps a type-A who is a leader, and wants to be recognized by still another leader, Jesus.

Today’s millennials want everyone to know how smart they are, how much business savvy they have, how physically fit they are, and how deserving they are for doing what they want through any path they choose. They have their BMWs, and the latest iPhone. Accountability and responsibility are of no consequence, they think. Unfortunately, many are failures.

Many are not unlike this man in their approach to people in charge. The attitude is, “We want what we want, and we think we deserve help to get there.” Like this man, they often make four common mistakes of people of the earth (do not neglect thinking about yourself when you read these). The outcomes are predictable.

Good leaders are never “self-made.” It takes a person’s submission to the higher authority in order to achieve what is in the plans of the higher authority (Almighty God).

However there are also more considerations for a leader’s lack of success::

  1. Not dealing with an inescapable problem. Many do not ask, “Who is Jesus?” The question, if we answer, makes us contemplate if He is God—for if He is, then we become accountable to Him. He is more than a good teacher. This is a fundamental consideration that dares not be set aside. If He is the Christ (and He is), then we cannot ignore dealing with this fundamental question.
  2. Thinking that if we only do some “stuff” we can earn His recognition and thus enter eternal life by our method of works and service. So we ask, “What must I do? How can I get a good grade; how can I gain the attention of others?” We ask so that we can make a decision as to whether we want to do what is asked. We think that we are good, or at least as good as others we know or observe. All we want is to be “good enough” so we might pass the tests. That is a mistake, because we do not enter eternal life through percentages of accomplishments.
  3. False assessments reign. “I am OK.” We look at ourselves with assurance that we “got it,” that everything is fine. Our personal scoring on self-esteem is the same; all 9s and 10s (even for the ones who fail). In viewing others, we meet all the standards that humans expect. That is surely enough, isn’t it?.
  4. When we face the honest questions of Jesus, and respond to His invitation, it is with the sense of “Later, I am busy with life; I will give consideration to You at a later date.” When we are pressed for a “yes or no” response, our faces fall, because we sense we have to answer to sovereignty—not ours but His. That is really uncomfortable.

It is a mistake to ignore the questions; the mistakes. It is like walking down the road and coming to a fork. We do not have the luxury of ignoring the fork, we must decide which fork in the road to take. There are no U-turns, we can only enter today; yesterday is gone.

The fork includes facing the questions; a mistake brings outcomes one will not cherish for eternity. One thing you lack!

We often live out of balance in our worship, our family, our work, our church, and in our community of influence.

The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. 1 Timothy 6:11

Substitute for the word “money” whatever focus you have that sets Christ aside. This is a grim mistake that one should passionately resist. The word “money” and its substitutes are on one fork in the road—the other fork is where Christ is waiting. We should take that fork.

Perspectives Change Your Outcomes – Mark 8:36-37

Vol. 2, No. 38 – 9-17-2017

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? What shall a man give for his soul?  Mark 8:36-37

Sometimes we dream about the things we want, even thinking what we might do that would be considered good; if we would only open the mailbox to discover a check for $20,000,000.

Robert Thompson owned 189 newspapers and just under 300 other businesses. He had personal assets of over $300,000,000. When asked if he would like to own the New York Times, he replied, “I would mortgage my soul” for it.

  • Living does not require massive wealth
  • Happiness does not require hoarding
  • Contentment does not require top positions

B.C. Forbes (1917) contemplated man’s idea of success: Too often in talking with so-called successful men I cannot but feel that they are making business an end and aim in itself; that they regard the multiplying of their millions and the extension of their works as the be-all and end-all of life, life itself. Such men are sometimes happy in a feverish hustling sort of way, much as a fly placed in a tube of oxygen is furiously happy until its life burns out and they die.

As Mark records, Jesus is articulating a significant difference between the spiritual and the humanistic mindset. We still live in the “me” generation—it is all about us. Most of us do not even know how to arrive someplace on time. We are too busy squeezing our activities of life into the immediate; thus downplaying the next commitment we have. When it comes to God, the common reaction of the earth-bound person is to attempt to negotiate with His authority, offer excuses for our behaviors, and to focus on happiness as the necessary outcome of our lives.

However, that is dishonest with reality. Jesus asks, “What is your motive?” Again, if the natural man is honest, the motive is self. Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Further, He asks, “What is your future aim?” The common answer is security, gain, material, and cash. The mind of Jesus offers, “Why not lose your life for My sake; then you will gain life. You will get by giving. That is the outcome.”

In addition, Jesus asks another question, “What value do you place on things? How does that work out for you in view of eternity? How is your stock and investments really doing?” There is a subtle statement that is not forthrightly given, but it is there. “Where you go in eternity is dependent upon what you pursue in your life on the earth. Your heart responds to what you place within—all your thoughts, speaking, and actions follow what you place in your heart.” The outcome is plain.

  • Do we sacrifice honor for profit?
  • Do we sacrifice values for political correctness?
  • Do we sacrifice integrity for popularity?
  • Do we sacrifice quality for the cheap?

If so, we are mortgaging our soul for what is corrupt. That is the outcome. Outcomes are influenced by our motivations, aims, and values. Outcomes are determined by our relationship to Holy God. Have you looked at your outcomes lately?

If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. Luke 9:23

Passionately pursuing Christ in order to passionately pursue People

The Real Model for our Lives: Excellence or Mediocrity? – Mark 7:37

Vol. 2, No. 37 – 9-10-2017

And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.  Mark 7:37

I finished my undergraduate training at Regents External University, an institution that later became Excelsior University. The school allows itself to be used as a credit bank for students, who by nature of their work or calling, move frequently and cannot meet the matriculation requirements of many universities. Once the learner met all requirements, the student is recommended to the State University of New York for graduation consideration. I met the requirements and graduated from the university, SUNY-Albany.

Over the years, I did further work at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and Temple University, Philadelphia. I completed my MDiv and then worked toward my PhD degree. Eventually I earned my DMin. The word Excelsior is a term that implies superiority in skill and achievement; a picture of “going beyond” to attain the summit.

Doing things well” is also translated “done with excellence.” When we think of the term excellence (excelsior), we cannot ignore its opposite—mediocrity.

Mediocrity, a Latin derivative, means “halfway up the mountain.” It is a very “so-so” effort. It is like doing only 40% of your test, and saying “that is enough.” It is the dentist that looks at your teeth to discover five teeth need fillings; however, the dentist only fixes two, leaving the other three for someone else to do. Halfway. It is running halfway and then stopping because you were neither prepared, nor interested in finishing the course. It does not even approach ordinary. It is also becoming the commonplace outcome of our culture.

Howard Hendricks indicated that we are a society that is producing manageable mediocrity—”anything is good enough.”

Mark, the Gospel writer, says that everything Jesus did, He did with excellence (excelsior).

  • The deaf could now hear
  • The hungry were fed
  • The mute could now speak
  • The dead were healed and raised
  • The demon-possessed were freed from their torment
  • Those who were in fear were calmed

We who serve the living Christ experience the same kind of audience. The deaf do not know of Christ, but they can hear of Him through our voice. There are those hungry for the gospel; they need to be fed the Word of God. The ones unable to speak of someone they know not, can be led to Christ and have great things to say about His presence and to say how another can be introduced to Him. The dead, drifting toward an eternal separation, can be healed and revived with new life in Christ. The tormented can be free; demonstrating their new freedom in Christ to those who knew them as possessed. The fearful can be introduced to the One who brings peace to the soul.

Who is to do this? Us. True excelsior lies in the treasure we contain. Do people we develop relationships with experience excelsior, or are they left to their own mediocrity?

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us. 2 Corinthians 5 18-20a

Some die in ashes; some die in flames; some die inch by inch, playing their little children’s games

 

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