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 13:1-4

“As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another – all will be thrown down.’ While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? The capital city is truly a wonder of human engineering and architecture. Now, the city itself is a mess. It’s been poorly run for decades. It is generally an uneasy mashup of the very wealthy and the very poor. Its cost of living is sky high. Its crime rate is high and the quality of its school system is low. And the weather is pretty awful most of the time. Except as a matter of pure convenience, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live there. But when you get to the National Mall, all of that is completely forgotten as you stand in awe and wonder at the beauty surrounding you on all sides. It was designed to impress and it certainly does. It conveys the strength and power of the United States, her people, and her government in a way few other things accomplish. It suggests a permanence that nothing can touch. The temple complex in Jerusalem suggested many of the same things and was built for many of the same purposes. Yet when His disciples stopped to marvel at the whole thing, Jesus gave them a dose of reality that hit like a bucket of cold water. This is a dose of reality we could use ourselves. Let’s talk about it.

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A Solid Foundation

This week we kick off a brand-new teaching series through the New Testament letter of 1 Peter called, Standing Firm. We live in a culture that is increasingly intolerant of orthodox expressions of Christian faithfulness. This intolerance is more and more frequently resulting in the world pushing back against such expressions in ways that do not comport with the freedom our Constitution guarantees. Yet seasons change and governing structures don’t last forever. Persecution has been the norm for the church more often than tolerance and acceptance. Still, this experience is new for many of us in this country and so we don’t know well how to stand firm after the pattern of Jesus. Peter offers great wisdom here and over the course of this we are going to explore together what he has to say by the Spirit. It all starts, though, with having the right foundation. That’s where we start in this part. Thanks for reading.

A Solid Foundation

We’ll start with a bit of name recognition this morning. How many of you have heard the name Jack Phillips? I suspect the number is a bit higher than it once was thanks to his high-profile win at the Supreme Court in 2018. But not everyone follows the news about Supreme Court decisions very closely, so his name may still be a new one to you.

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Morning Musing: Philippians 4:7

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

God gives gifts in expected ways and times. They come from unexpected people too. He delights in using the least likely individuals to accomplish the most powerful kingdom good. The world was recently treated to an example of this that I suspect will reverberate far and wide before its impact begins to abate. If you haven’t already heard the name, this morning I’d like to set before you the story of Jane Marczewski, also known as Nightbirde.

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Digging in Deeper: 1 Thessalonians 4:13

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

One of the ideas people like to throw around sometimes today is that dying is easy. Usually the corollary idea paired with that is that living is hard. That kind of notion can be made to sound philosophically sagacious. Someone with a loud pen (or keyboard as is more often the case these days) can fire it off and be guaranteed a near viral load of retweets and reposts. But the truth is that it is just a platitude. It doesn’t add anything really meaningful to a conversation that nearly everyone has at some point in our lives. Should our Lord tarry, death is coming for us all eventually. And while dying may be easy in the sense that it really doesn’t take any effort on our part, death is hard. I’m thinking about this today because a good man I know is facing his own death. These are some thoughts with him in mind.

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