Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Stubborn Stain” – Mark 7:14-23

William Barclay calls this week’s reading from Mark “the most revolutionary passage in the New Testament.”  Up to this point, “Jesus has been arguing with the legal experts about different aspects of the traditional law. He has shown the irrelevance of the elaborate handwashings. He has shown how rigid adherence to the traditional law can actually mean disobedience to the law of God. But here he says something more startling yet. He declares that nothing that goes into a man can possibly defile him, for it is received only into his body which rids itself of it in the normal, physical way.”
This would have been a terribly offensive proposition to first century Jews, who would rather die (literally) than eat swine and other forbidden foods.  They believed that these foods would make them ceremonially unclean and unacceptable to God.  Jesus was now pronouncing that the Old Testament food and dietary regulations, along with the supplementary regulations and traditions of the Pharisees, meant nothing to a person’s spiritual condition.
This message contained in this week’s passage is pretty simple, but is difficult for many to accept.  Why do you think that is?
Verses 21 and 22 provide a list of “evil things” that come from within us.  What does that say about the state of our hearts?
You’ve no doubt heard the popular saying, “All people are basically good.”  Would Jesus agree with that statement?  Why not?

Please pray that God will open doors of opportunity for sharing and hearts for receiving the good news of Jesus Christ with our community at Old Home Day on Saturday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark Sermon Series

Being a Busy Body

“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Visitors to our church and new congregants often remark that we have a lot going on for a body our size.  I immediately agree with this assessment but am also of two minds as I reflect on this fact.  The body of Christ, manifesting itself through the local church, is supposed to engage every member in service to one another and Gospel ministry to our community.  We are supposed to be a body of owners not renters, actively engaged as the Lord has called us.  But at the same time, our ministry should be life giving and not life sapping.  What I mean is that every ounce of ministry and activity expended by this local body of Christ should result in work that births new or builds up existing Christian life.  Hopefully all ministry starts out doing that, but often needs change and the Lord calls us in other directions.  It’s at that point that we need to recognize the need to adapt an existing ministry or stop doing an old work that takes more from the life of the body than it gives.  Doing that requires seeking the Lord in Word and prayer and taking a little time to back away from the busyness.  It is these three things that we, as a church, intend to focus on this summer as we prepare for fall.

Our summer schedule will kick in on June 24th, when our morning worship service time changes to 9 A.M., with coffee hour and fellowship to follow.  That same day, we will begin to take a summer break from Sunday school and other classes normally occurring throughout the week (men’s Tuesday night fellowship will continue).  Our Sunday night praise and prayer service will also take a break and come back with a different format in September.  The elders and I would like July and August to be months in which we all focus on worshipping God well, seeking His leading and devoting ourselves to fellowship within the body.  Each of us plays a vital role in this.

It is my hope that you will use a little of your down time to get into the Word of God, if you are not already doing so on a daily basis.  There is nothing, truly nothing, that will transform your Christian walk like a daily commitment to reading the Bible.  This is the place where we hear God speak to us.  Don’t take my word for it, challenge yourself to a daily reading plan for the summer and take stock of the work God has done in you come September.  At the same time, commit yourself to regular periods of prayer – thanking God for His many provisions and laying your needs before His feet.  Ask God to reveal the life giving work He has prepared for you and for this church.  Don’t think for a moment that these things are reserved for the elders, deacons and pastor.  We are all equally part of the body and it is our collective privilege and responsibility to discern God’s will for the Congregational Church of Goffstown.

Included in this issue of Passages, is a summer reading list of books that the elders and I have found help as we sought to grow in God’s grace.  But before you consider adding even one of them to your shopping cart, please make sure you first commit to the daily reading of God’s Word.  If you need help getting started, finding a Bible translation or working through a particular passage, let me or one of the elders know.  We’d consider it a privilege to help you find God’s heart through His Word.  So let’s all, like Mary in the passage above, stop the busyness and seek “the good portion” of our Lord’s presence this summer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Passages

“Word Void” – Mark 7:1-13

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve heard about the disastrous initial public offering of Facebook stock.  Just how disastrous remains to be seen.  Many of those buying on the first day are claiming to be in it for the long term.

Some critics are suggesting that the company name be changed to “fakebook,” given the perceived fake book value of the company and their own predictions that it will be the next MySpace.  Facebook’s offering price established the company’s value far in excess of any of the U.S. automakers, Microsoft or Apple, all of which own tangible assets and have products to sell.  On the other side are the institutional buyers and a large number of individual investors, all who invested real money and believed it to be a good investment.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the offering price was set at face value or fake book.

Jesus, in this week’s passage from Mark, was facing a fakebook moment of His own, except that the stakes were eternally greater.  The Galilean Pharisees had called in the big boys from the home office – the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem, to publicly challenge the teaching and actions of Jesus.  The Pharisees and scribes were enforcers of Jewish traditions, many of which caused the people to disobey the commands of God.  They had a fake rule book, of sorts, that was from man and not of God.  Their playbook led God’s people away from, not closer to Him.  That’s a real danger for us as well.  We have all kinds of playbooks (traditions) that we have cling to at the expense of our relationship with God.  We don’t have to wait and see how things will turn out.  Whenever we deviate from the Word of God, there will be adverse effects, usually in our relationship with God and others.

As you meditate on this week’s passage, consider the example Jesus provided as proof that the traditions of the elders were leading people into transgression and away from God (v. 9-13).  What was that particular tradition and how did it void the Word of God in the lives of those who followed it?

What traditions or cultural norms do you hold onto that void the Word of God in your own life?  Are the traditions we maintain in our church sound and Biblical, or do they lead us away from the heart and will of God?  Who, in our church, is responsible for keeping the church accountable to the Word of God?

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark Sermon Series

“Heart of the Matter” – Mark 6:45-56

You’d almost think the disciples would be leery about taking another boat ride for Jesus.  Who knows what will happen this time?  But they must have viewed it as an opportunity to escape the desperation of the crowds.  A quiet row across the Galilee might provide the peace, quiet and relaxation they were hoping for.  Well, this trip was anything but peaceful, quiet or relaxing.  They toiled at the oars and against the wind for over six hours and couldn’t even keep the boat on course.  And that was just the beginning of what Jesus had in store for them that evening (take a minute to read about that night in the passage above if you haven’t).

Verses 51 and 52 are important for understanding this week’s passage.  The disciples were utterly astounded at what they witnessed Jesus do and even at what He said, and yet they still did not understand about the loaves (last week’s passage).  The point being made is that Jesus is much more than we think and wants to do much more than we expect.  But our hearts seem to be the limiting factor, do they not?

If you have time, read this week’s passage in three different Bible translations.  You can do that at Bible Gateway.  ClickHERE to read it in the ESV and then give it a try in two other translations.  Doing this will give you a better sense of what is going on and being said.  Look especially at verses 51 and 52.

Consider Jesus’ words in verse 50.  He literally says, in one of these sentences, “It is I am.”  Why might that be significant?

Please join me in praying that God will open all our hearts to see who Jesus is and all that He has for us when we gather for worship this coming Sunday.  Also, please pray about how you may be able to help us reach out to our community during Old Home Day and through our summer Kid’s Camp.  There are plenty of ways for everyone to get involved and we need everyone’s help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark Sermon Series

Good Shepherd – Mark 6:30-44

This week’s passage from Mark is probably one you’re quite familiar with.  Jesus and the crowd of 5,000 men, plus women and children, is caught on a lakeside pasture in the middle of nowhere and it is getting late.  The crowd will need to be fed because Jesus has spent all day preaching and now there is little time left for them to return home or to a village to find a meal.  The disciples tried to warn Jesus but now He puts it back on them.  “You give them something to eat,” Jesus says.  Of course to feed a crowd like this would require the equivalent of 8 months worth of wages, and there’s no way the disciples have that kind of money after just returning from a trip in which Jesus told them to leave without their wallets.  What to do?  Well Jesus just needs to cook up (no pun intended – well maybe a little) a miracle and he does.  He turns fives loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed about 20,000 people with a little left over.  Well if we leave the story at that, we end up equating it to the story of the wedding reception where Jesus turned the water into wine.  But Mark, and Jesus, are making a much bigger statement about what that means for those who follow Him.  I believe that Mark wants us to know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows and compassionately cares for His sheep.  We get that view by looking at the qualities of the Good Shepherd.

As you meditate on this week’s passage, also consider looking up verses containing the words “shepherd” and “sheep” in a Bible concordance or by searching one of the great Bible sites on the web.

Why do you think Jesus said that the crowd was like sheep without a shepherd?

What were Jesus and His disciples up to just prior to being greeted by the 5,000+, and how does that define “compassion” for us?

Knowing how important details are to Mark, why do you suppose he tells us that the grass/pasture was “green” in verse 39?  Why were there 12 baskets of food left over?

Please join me in praying for God to strengthen our faith and increase the presence of His kingdom when we gather for worship this coming Sunday.  Also, please pray about how you may be able to help us reach out to our community during Old Home Day and through our summer Kid’s Camp.  You can read more about those ministry opportunities in the right hand column.  There are plenty of ways for everyone to get involved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark Sermon Series

“Misplaced Fear” – Mark 6:14-29

Here we go again.  This week’s passage is another Markian sandwich.  To be more specific, this week’s passage is the meat in the middle of the sandwich.  By way of reminder, a Markian sandwich is a when Mark begins one story, inserts another completely different story in the middle to emphasize the first, and then completes the story.  Both stories in the sandwich have essentially the same theme.  This week’s passage has been inserted in the middle of a story about Jesus sending His apostles out two by two to spread the good news of the kingdom of God.  But what theme do the two stories share in common?  Both stories underscore the importance and urgency of faith.

For most of Mark’s gospel, thus far, he has been showing us who Jesus is, and does so largely by Jesus’ actions and peoples’ response to Him.  At this point, we should have a pretty good idea of who Jesus is – He is the good news of the kingdom of God.  Jesus is the  holy One of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.  He, Himself, is divine.  Mark has been more recently pressing in on the reader to make a decision about what reader will do about what he now knows of Jesus.  He’s asking, “Are you ready to place your faith in Jesus?”  And that’s something Mark will push all the way to the end of the book.  Mark has also started to layer in other critical themes, especially with regard to the definition and cost of being a disciple of Jesus.  We see some of that in this and last week’s passages, and we’ll see a lot more in the coming weeks.

Mark use this week’s middle passage to drill a little further into the overall theme of the sandwich.  He is essentially saying in it, “Don’t let your fears cause you to miss out on Jesus.”  In other words, “Don’t let whatever else you fear losing cause you to forsake an abiding faith in Jesus.”  How do those fears cause us to miss out in Jesus?  I’ll answer that question in some detail on Sunday morning, but you can answer it now by studying the passage above.

As you meditate on this week’s passage, also consider the following questions:

Why does Herodias want John the Baptist killed?

Why does Herod want John, at least initially, kept alive and at what length does he go to do so?

What does Mark mean when he says that “an opportunity came” in verse 21?  What opportunity?

Please join me in praying for God to strengthen our faith and increase the presence of His kingdom when we gather for worship this coming Sunday.  Also, please pray about how you may be able to help us reach out to our community during Old Home Day and through our summer Kid’s Camp.  You can read more about those ministry opportunities in the right hand column.  There are plenty of ways for everyone to get involved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark Sermon Series