Archive for June, 2012

Mark 4:35-20

There are many aspects worth looking at in this wonderful story of just one of Jesus’ “goings” during His three years of ministry but I want to focus in on a couple of points that really jumped out at me.  Take a minute to read the whole story and then we are going to pull just a couple of things out for today.

Being engaged in full-time ministry (especially here in the United States) tempts one to play the numbers game.  We want to maximize our resources and time and reach as many people as we can given that time and resource.  We commission broad studies and do detailed demographic surveys to find receptive populations and to direct our attention to them.  Here in Mark God reminds us that it is not all about the multitude.

Now when they had left the multitude.”  (Mark 4:36a)

Not an earth shattering passage of revelation, yet it speaks volumes about the missional life.  Jesus spoke to the multitudes often through his years of ministry but this is balanced (and perhaps the scales are tipped more in this direction) by His ministry to the few, or even the one as is recorded here in Mark.

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had been bound with shackles and chains.  And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”  (Mark 5:2-5)

Luke 8:27 tells us the man was naked and Matthew adds the story of the second man also living in the tombs but the principle is the same.  Jesus leaves the multitudes, crosses the sea (through a storm) and lands in a new place to minister to a crazy, naked man living in a graveyard (and his friend).  So that sets up my question.  “How far will you go to minister to the crazy naked man living in the graveyard?”  One might think that this crazy man was the sideshow to a great ministry of revival.  Surely Jesus had a nobler and greater purpose in this trip across the sea.  With this demonstration there must have been a great outpouring of God’s Kingdom in the countryside.  Of course you have already read the story and know that this is not true.  Jesus did not get a chance to teach a “multitude” in fact the “multitude” did come to him but Matthew puts it rather succinctly, “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus.  And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.  So He got into the boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.”  (Matthew 8:34-9:1)

I cannot even begin to anticipate my reaction if I woke up one morning with the whole city at the doorstep of the Lewis House begging us to pack up and leave.  I have to wonder if the disciples were not a little bit grumbly about this little trip and its result.  Had Jesus made a mistake crossing the sea?  Maybe he missed His Father’s voice this one time.  Or maybe Jesus was teaching them all a very special lesson about His love for the lost, the oppressed, the crazy, the one and how far He was willing to go.  It is a lesson that continued and found its climax on a hill called Golgotha. It is a lesson that would find its fulfillment with an empty tomb.

So how far are we willing to go?  The one is out there waiting for a touch from God.

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Perhaps the next time that someone asks me about what we do at The Lewis House I will say, “We meet Julius where he is at.”  I first met Julius on the sidewalk in front of TLH.  He asked me for $10.00 and then moved on when I said that we could supply food and personal items but that we did not deal in cash.  Several days later he stopped out front and asked again for money but this time did not decline the offer of a meal.  Since then he has become a regular visitor to the house.

There are many ways and places to meet people.  As I read the Bible I see a recurring theme.  While it is true that some followed Jesus everywhere, they followed Jesus as he went to meet them where they were at.  Whether it was on the hills of Judea, up in a tree, coming to a well in the heat of the day, across the sea naked in a graveyard or up on a rocky crag named Golgotha, Jesus was ready to meet them exactly where they were at.  He came to feed them, to eat with them, to speak truth to them, to free them and ultimately to die and rise again for them.  Then when it was time for him to return to the Father he passed the torch on to the disciples,  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20) while still assuring them (and us) that he would always be here to meet them where they are at.  Being missional is just about that, meeting people where they are at.  While God has placed us here in Toledo at TLH, He has also placed every person reading this blog somewhere that has people who need God’s love and a little truth in their lives.  Once we live God’s love and speak God’s truth then it is up to the Holy Spirit.

There has been no radical change, no epiphany for Julius, but his stories seem a little truer and he keeps coming back.  He listens a little longer and is just a little softer with each visit.  That brings me to the other important part of meeting them where they are at, prayer.  The Holy Spirit can meet Julius wherever he is at, at any time and won’t you join me in praying that He does?!

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Memorial Day just passed.  So many posts on Facebook of, “I will not forget”.  Yet as I think about our many holidays and the way that we celebrate them I wonder.  Chilly Chilton recently posted in a group that I belong to about Pentecost Sunday:

We have one Sunday each year that we call “Pentecost Sunday” … Question: what do we call (and live) the other 51 weeks??

The impact of any given holiday and the memory that it is intended to convey is not indicated by what we do on that day or in that season but by what we do in the “other 51 weeks”.

It would seem that as a race (the human race) we establish holidays more to forget an event than to remember it.  My first inclination was to see this as a recent phenomenon but as I consider the Old Testament and Israel I find that this is probably not the case.  Consider Amos 5:21

“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.”

These feasts and assemblies were ordained by God to commemorate his intervention in the history of Israel, but somewhere along the line Israel lost the meaning of  the feasts and followed only the senseless observance.  As the popular song puts it they missed “the heart of worship”.  The book of Amos is essentially a call to Israel by God to return to the heart of worship.  It is about what they do the other 51 weeks out of the year. “You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.”  (Amos 5:7). Yet Isaiah makes it clear that while injustice, bitterness and unrighteousness are the fruit, the core of the matter is in the heart, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”  Isaiah 29:13

Jesus boils it all down to two commands that seem so simple but for fallen humanity are only possible to follow through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40

I will take the liberty to expand Jesus’ words to include all the feasts and all the Holidays;  all the Sabbaths and all the forms of worship we may have.  If they do not point to and express our love for God and our love for our neighbors they are as Paul put it in the famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, “a resounding gong or clanging cymbal”  If they do not impact what we do “the other 51 weeks of the year” to be obedient to the great commandments then they are worse than useless, they are despised by God.  The great truth in all of this is that it is really not about the form, the holiday, the season, the tradition…It is about the heart and our personal relationships with our Lord Jesus Christ being expressed in all that we do.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:9-12

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