Watch Your Response – Mark 1:40

Vol. 2, No. 44 – 10-29-2017

And a leper came to Him, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean. Mark 1:40

Sometimes it is good for us to contemplate under our Broom Tree as we read the Scriptures. We have journeyed through several verses of the Gospel of Mark over the last many weeks; now it is good for us to go back to some beginning remarks of the gospel writer.

My wife, Donna, and I traveled to the State of Orissa, India in June, 2000. It was not the most pleasant of travels. The flight was long, messy, and crowded. We flew from Chicago, to Amsterdam, to Mumbai (you may know it as Bombay), and then to Calcutta—27-1/2 hours. Then we boarded a train to Berhampur that was supposed to be a four-hour ride—it was eight and one-half hours with no facilities on the train (Donna was not a happy camper). Our trips into the small villages was harsh, dirty, and sad. While we were able to share the gospel and received many responses, we also observed living areas just outside the villages reserved for lepers.

Leprosy is a disease that physically devastates the body, eating away flesh and bone structure. Most experiencing leprosy also succumb to emotional discomfort, even shame. In the OT time, leprosy brought the label of “unclean” upon the bearer of the disease. It was associated with “God abandoning a person.” While that is untrue, the social stigma was such that no one would want to aid another person who had this disease.

Physical pain, mental pain, rejection, and shame caused people to cry out for relief—to be clean once again. Yet to aid, even to accidently touch the leper, brought fear among those not having the disease to worry and fear—afraid of vulnerability, petrified of their own rejection, knowing that they certainly could not be healed.

The response of the leper:

  • He came pleading for Jesus to make him clean;
  • He readily admitted that he had a significant problem
  • He came with bended knee; humbled himself before Christ
  • He knew he was dependent on what Jesus might do; sought Jesus’ willingness
  • He believed that Jesus could change his life

The response of Jesus:

  • Jesus touches him
  • Jesus does not shame the leper for his problem
  • Jesus understands his problem
  • Jesus speaks that the leper’s problem is fully resolved
  • Jesus’ power is unmatched; the power of Jesus has not changed; it is the same following his resurrection, it resides in the believer and is at work (Ephesians 1:19-20)

What about you?

  • Where do you hurt?
  • What makes you ashamed?
  • What makes you feel rejected?
  • Jesus is fully sufficient and powerful to care for our every condition
  • What do you do for the problems of others?
  • If you lead or mentor others, how do you really treat them?

And immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Mark 1:43

Time to Make a Difference – Mark 15:43

Vol. 2, No. 43 – 10-22-2017

Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Mark 15:43

When John Sculley was CEO of Pepsi, Inc., Steve Jobs (of Apple fame) asked him a confronting question: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

There comes a time in our lives that we must make decisions over the choices before us in life. How we respond makes a difference in our patterns of life. Sometimes these decisions are urgent, or at the very least, impacting.

Lebron James indicated that at the point of winning or losing the NBA Championship it was “crunch time.” It was time to divide the men from the boys; it was time to determine if they, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were just going to be “also-rans.” Others have made similar remarks.

Joseph was at the “crunch time.” Who was he?

  • A man of integrity, of noble character
  • A man of determined carefulness
  • A religious man; spiritually centered
  • A respected man; one of the 70 men of the Sanhedrin
  • A wealthy man; owned a tomb fit for the burial of a King
  • A man who waited for the kingdom of God
  • Secretly a disciple of Jesus (John 19:38)—but not secretive

Secretly is grammatically that “he was hidden; secreted.”

Joseph was not afraid of being put out of the Temple, disbarred from the Sanhedrin, or excluded from eating the Passover. Joseph was afraid of the Jews putting him in prison before he accomplished the work he had been purposed and prepared himself to do—to prepare a burial for his King—an opinion of Andrew Bonar

Faith brings an opportunity to shine in the darkness at a time for which one is called to make a difference. As we read of the events that surround the persecution and trial of Jesus; as we read of His death, the common reaction of his followers was to run. Many who had heard Him speak, showing love toward Him, departed upon His arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

What would you have done? Really? Joseph demonstrated love for Jesus when He was silent, and when He was dead as the Man of God. Perhaps Joseph understood more clearly that Jesus would be alive forevermore. Joseph did not make sugar water; he took action to show the world the One to whom belief is absolutely necessary—an allegiance that would change the world.

What will you do when your “crunch time” arrives? You will have to make a choice as to what comes next. Faith is the tool of life that brings us to face our “crunch time” choices.

Will you spend your life making sugar water; or will you participate in changing the world?

Joseph gave Jesus use of his tomb. He stepped off the map to make a difference for the world. He was the “unknown” Christian for the time.

What are you doing as the “unknown” to make the availability of Christ “known.” Where is your map? Or, are you just sitting by drinking your sugar water.

It is time to make a difference.

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

It Might Have Been: Judas – Mark 14:10

Vol. 2, No. 42 – 10-15-2017

And Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests, in order to betray Him to them. Mark 14:10

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are: ‘It might have been.'”—John Whittier, Maud Miller Pamphlet

Judas is a name in history that brings disdain to those who love Christ. Even as ruthless as Adolf Hitler was, Judas has a reputation that seems to surpass the un-likeability of Hitler. The treason of Judas is remembered as a dark hour in world history.

Judas was the treasurer of the group of the twelve called leaders who followed Christ. He could have been a Wall Street rising star, an investment guru. He could well have been a Roman tax attorney with no equal.

However, as money does in today’s culture, money corrupted him. The power gained from corruption bleeds over into a strength that has weakness as its outcome. Instead of thinking toward “what might have been” there are those whose thoughts lean toward “what can I get.” It is a self-eradication of character.

Today’s leaders need to carefully consider what their choices do to their character.

He was so far from surrendering to Jesus, he wanted Jesus to surrender to him; and when Jesus took His own way, the way of the Cross, Judas was so incensed that he double-crossed Him. The essence of sin is pride; the core of sin is independence; the heart of sin is the desire to do what we like and not what God likes. Notice the middle word of “sin” and “pride;” it is “I.”

He betrayed Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver; he did it with a kiss of death—it was a total obliteration of his outward character, but a revelation of the character of his heart

Why? He loved himself. He loved money. He was covetous. It is the same character deficit that brought on the death of the rich land and farm owner in Luke 12:20. It was a tragic waste of a life, destined for an eternity of separation.

There is something here to learn, is there not? How is our contentedness? Where is our knowledge, talent, skills, ministry, power in the Spirit—without the converted heart, what we have has no value, it is just stuff in our life.

Not only was Judas a skilled money-handler, he was a talented actor. He acted as a person he was not.

  • He journeyed downward, along a slippery slope. He attempted to survive, but was caught up in the normal reactions of survival—everything was “fast and furious.”. Greed consumes.
  • He found that it was a danger, in his own mind, to associate with Jesus. He refuses the grace and mercy that was a part of the character of Jesus. Sometimes we find bad people among the community of the church. Surprised? Just because someone is near a believer, near to hear of the Lord, does not produce likeness—required is a heart change.
  • His thoughts became an act. Acts often result in fabrications. Fabrications become a habit. You do not have habits, habits have you. Habits mold your character and shape your eternity.
  • His thoughts, perhaps, as he contemplated suicide, was upon the “ifs” of life. The question most likely still haunts him in that fiery place.

William Barclay says, “We shudder at Judas. But let us think again  . . . covetousness, jealousy, ambition, and the dominant desire is to have our own way of things.” Thus, the crooner sings, “I Want It My Way.” Are we so very different—we need to be. We need to give attention to the things of life that would betray Jesus; for they still do.

Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12

Sittin’ by the Fire
When the frost was coming down and the wind was creeping up higher,he spent his time just that way,a sittin’ by the fire. Same old habit, day after day, he never seemed to tire. While others worked and built their classes he just sat there by the fire. When he died of slow degrees,some said, he went way up higher. But if he’s doing what he always did,he’s just a sittin’ around the fire.

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