As I read today’s Bible reading in Mark 7, one word stood out in glaring clarity: tradition. And instantly, I heard Tevye singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof.
I can almost hear the First Century Jewish Leaders arguing with Jesus about their traditions. They express their frustration that Jesus’ disciples aren’t upholding the Jewish traditions that have been handed down through the centuries. And then Jesus exposes their hypocrisy, as he frequently does.
Jesus never says that He has a problem with traditions.
What Jesus does have a problem with is traditionalism.
Traditions can help preserve history. Traditions can help preserve memories. Traditions can honor the past. Traditions can help to preserve culture.
But traditionalism makes idols out of traditions. Traditionalism can pervert traditions. And that’s exactly what Jesus points out in today’s Bible reading.
What about you? What traditions do you have? Do those traditions bring honor to something/someone, or do they cheapen the very things that are supposed to be honored?
Celebrate traditions. But don’t turn them into idols.
There are two things I want to point out from today’s Bible reading from Mark 6.
The chapter begins and ends talking about Jesus’ miracle ministry. The end of the chapter is very familiar to those of us who grew up in church. People come to Jesus to be healed and some are trusting in God’s healing if only they could touch the edge of His robe. And at the end of the chapter, Mark tells us that everyone is healed.
But the beginning of the chapter may be somewhat unfamiliar territory for those of us who grew up in church. Mark tells us that as Jesus was ministering in his hometown, He didn’t do any miraculous things, but that he laid His hands on a few people and they were healed. Jesus was astonished at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)
I don’t like that! Jesus is supposed to heal everyone. And everyone is supposed to live happily ever after, right?
But that’s not what we’re always given in God’s Word.
Occasionally, when we come to God’s Inspired Word, we will see things that don’t fit with the way we have always believed or what we think is right. It’s in times like these that we have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. We may wrestle with what we see in the Bible and that’s ok. And each time we encounter things we don’t understand, we must simply trust.
God is God. And We aren’t.
The other thing I want to point out is something that I don’t know I ever saw before: Herod liked to listen to John the Baptist. He wasn’t always comfortable listening to him, but he liked listening to this strange man who wore strange clothes. Herod recognized that there was something special about John. He feared John, so he protected John … until he couldn’t. (Mark 6:20)
How about you? Do you like to listen to gifted Bible teachers? Do you find yourself drawn to them, even though you sometimes feel uncomfortable? Now, in asking this, I assume that the gifted Bible teachers you’re listening to are faithful with God’s Word.
One of my classes in seminary was Church Music. The professor said that all music in church is for ministry (to God, to the church, and to the world), but music in church is never for amusement.
We don’t use the word much anymore, but to muse is to think. Jesus said the Great Commandment is to love God with all that we are: heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30) My professor pointed out
Are you amused by the things of God? Are you amused by the people of God? Or are you challenged in your beliefs? Are you encouraged in your beliefs?
Don’t be amused. Let God’s Word challenge your beliefs. Let your mind be transformed and renewed by God’s Word.
In today’s Bible reading (Mark 5), we read about a man who lived in the Gadera cemetery. He was possessed by a legion (3000-6000!) of demons. No one could contain him. He would often break out of shackles. He desperately wanted to be free!
Jesus did just that by sending all those demons into a nearby herd of pigs that immediately drowned themselves. I’m sure that the pig herders were not a little bit happy that two thousand of their pigs died that day! It’s noteworthy that the place where this happened was a Gentile region on the Eastern side of the Jordan River. Jesus was ministering in this area that was inhabited by Gentiles. Hmmm. This was before Paul was called to evangelize Gentiles. It goes to show that Jesus’ plan all along was to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his offspring (ie., Jesus)
The townspeople came to Jesus and found the formerly demon-possessed man, wearing clothes and in his right mind; perhaps that was something they had never seen before. They were afraid and begged Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was leaving, the man begged Jesus to let him accompany him, but Jesus told him to go back and tell his own people what happened. He did just that, going through the entire region telling his story. The people who heard him were amazed. (Mark 5:20)
At Jesus’ insistence, rather than doing the comfortable thing — staying with Jesus as He ministered — he went back to his people.
I have found that for many of us, it’s easier to go on a mission trip and tell perfect strangers about Jesus than it is to tell your story to people who know you. But that’s exactly what we’re called to do. Yes, we’re called to take the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But as we’ve seen at church in our sermon series through the book of Acts, Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and stay until they had received the promised Holy Spirit; the Spirit would empower them to tell people about Jesus in Jerusalem, as well as Judea (the region South of Jerusalem), Samaria (the region North of Jerusalem) and everywhere else (Acts 1:8). But it starts where you are.
Do you know Jesus? If so, what changes has He made in your life? Note: if you know Him, He will change your life!
Have you told the people you live with? Have you told the people you work with? Have you told people you encounter on a normal basis?
Jesus hasn’t left us to try to muster up the boldness to prepare a long dissertation or to preach a long theology-rich sermon. He simply gives us His Holy Spirit, Who gives us the power to be bold in telling our story. And nobody can tell your story but you! Let the Holy Spirit move in you to change your life and to give you the boldness and clarity you need to tell your story.
By the way, it’s impossible to mess this up!
In today’s Bible reading, we came across Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds (Mark 4:3-9). It’s a familiar story for those of us who grew up going to church. We’ve heard it at least a million times, right?
According to the parable, as the sower scattered the seed, some of the seed fell along the path and was scooped up by birds. Some of the seed fell in rocky soil and when seeds began to grow, the plants withered because they didn’t have enough soil to take root. Some of the seed fell in thorns, which choked out the plants as they began to grow. Finally, some of the seeds fell into good soil where it produced a great harvest.
As I said yesterday, we need to guard our hearts. As God’s Word is sown into our lives, we must have receptive hearts, or the Word won’t be able to take root and grow to produce the Kingdom Life that God intends. Yes, God’s Word will accomplish everything that God intends for it
But if you want to make the most of what God has for you in His Word, you absolutely have to keep your heart prepared to receive the Word.
My dad grew up on a farm in Eastern North Carolina. A few days before it was time to plant seeds for the upcoming season, my Granddaddy, my dad, and my uncles would have to till up the hard soil so that when the seeds were sown, they would have fertile soil to grow in. Dad once told me that by the time the process was complete, the empty field would clean and smooth, looking like it had never been used before.
The process took several days and involved several passes of the farm equipment to chop up the leftover corn stalks (left in the field from last year’s corn harvest) and work them into the soil where those old, unused, “wasted” parts could decay and be fertilizer for this year’s crop. It was all organic. Truly, nothing was wasted in my Granddaddy’s field.
The same is true in your life: Nothing is wasted in the field of your life. Our Father is taking all of it — the old, decaying, wasted, leftover stuff that you think is what’s weighing you down — and using those things to prepare you for your present and future. Allow God to work. Allow Him to use the (ahem) dung in your life to be the fertile material for your future spiritual growth.
As you continue to read God’s Word with me this year, let God take all of your life — including the “wasted”, painful parts, the “stuff” that happens — with His Word to make a beautiful, bountiful field … for His glory.
In Mark 3:5 (part of today’s Bible reading) we’re told that Jesus was grieved by the hardness of the hearts of the Pharisees.
You would think that men who had spent their entire lives studying the Bible and teaching the Bible could grow so hardhearted.
But unfortunately, it still happens all the time. It’s so hard to know so much in your mind, but miss so much in your heart. This is especially true of those of us who have spent many years as a Christian, even attending Bible College or Seminary.
Yes, on this side of eternity, each of us continues to deal with a deceptive and sick heart (Jeremiah 17:9). But when someone is saved, God gives them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), one that is receptive to the things of God. And yet….
As you continue reading with me through the New Testament this year, let’s remember to keep our heart soft. Part of keeping our heart soft is marking time with the Spiritual Disciplines (Bible Reading/Study, Bible Memory/Meditation, Prayer, Sharing your Faith, Giving to Support God’s Work, etc.). But just “doing the deal”, going through the motions of Spiritual Growth is no guarantee of Spiritual Growth, or even Spiritual life (Matthew 7:21-23). We must guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23) because that’s where our life comes from.