Digging in Deeper: Mark 13:9, 12-13

“But you, be on your guard! They will hand you over to local courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them. . . .Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

I had the opportunity to hear last night from a missionary serving with a ministry called The Rock of Ages ministry. Justin and his family do prison evangelism. His was a pretty powerful testimony of God getting ahold of someone who was pretty thoroughly embittered by a much more difficult childhood than anyone should have to experience and had been exposed to just enough religion during it all to hate it. He spent many years consumed by alcohol and drugs, and had seen a bit of the inside of the prison system himself. Now God has called him to proclaim the Gospel to prisoners. Justin had a number of great observations to share, but one thing really stood out to me that I had not considered before. Prisoners who become followers of Jesus gain two things: eternal life and a target on their back. Other prisoners now know that their behavior is going to change to be more like Jesus’ behavior. This will serve them well outside the walls of the prison, but on the inside it means they can’t defend themselves. Their embrace of Jesus is like a green light to the unsaved prisoners to persecute them. Christians experiencing persecution is nothing new. It’s been happening since the very beginning. It is a tough topic to tackle, but fortunately, it is not one for which Jesus left us unprepared.

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Morning Musing: Mark 6:51-52

“Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever been through an experience you simply didn’t understand? There are a couple of ways we respond to times like those. The first is to let the lack of understanding build within us a sense of curiosity wherein we go on some kind of a journey to gain a better grasp of what happened and why. The second response is to lean into the lack of understanding and turn ourselves away from the experience. We don’t want to try and understand it, we just want to put some distance between ourselves and it. Of these two responses, exactly which one we choose depends on a whole variety of factors. Generally, though, the more profound our lack of understanding is, the more likely we are to lean into the second. That’s what we see happening with the disciples here. Let’s dig into their reaction a bit and see what it might have to do with us.

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Morning Musing: James 1:12

“Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Sometimes life is hard. I’ll preach a funeral service today for a good and godly man. This will be the third funeral I’ve been a part of in the last two weeks. That’s three mourning families. Two were guys for whom you could have said, “It was their time,” (although that never makes the loss sting any less). One makes you want to rage against the injustice of a broken world. Sometimes life is hard. How do we handle it?

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Overcoming the World

Last week we ended things on a cliffhanger. God was allowing a terrible unfair injustice in Stephen’s death to happen without any apparent consequences for the people who perpetuated it. Why would He do that? Why does He allow the hard times we face in our own lives to happen the way they do? This week offers not so much an answer as an invitation to a bigger perspective. Let’s talk about it together.

Overcoming the World

Can I safely assume that everyone here has seen or at least knows the basic plot outline of the original Star Wars movie? I’m not sure if George Lucas had his vision completely laid out when he made the first film, but it was released as entry number four of a nine-part series. Who starts a 9-part series with episode number 4? George Lucas apparently. And, it’s has made him a very rich man, so there you go. Now, sure, episodes 1, 2, and 3 are all pretty much abominations (especially episode 1), but maybe that’s why he started with episode 4. Who knows?

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Digging in Deeper: Micah 6:9

“The voice of the Lord calls out to the city (and it is wise to fear your name): ‘Pay attention to the rod and the one who ordained it.’”
— ‭‭Micah‬ ‭6:9‬‬ ( CSB- Read the chapter)

One of the basic assumptions humans have always made about the world is that there’s more to it than we can see with our eyes. The unique phenomenon of modern atheism aside, the general belief about the nature of the world that every human culture has held since there were thinking and reasoning humans walking around on the planet is that there is a spiritual world we cannot see and it has an impact on our daily lives. The exact understanding of the nature of that impact has varied rather widely, but the belief that we are foolish to ignore it has not. And while this largely manifests itself as various superstitions, what we see right here reminds us that it isn’t all superstition.

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