ABUNDANT LIVING, ABUNDANT GIVING

MUSINGS – October 21, 2018

ABUNDANT LIVING, ABUNDANT GIVING

Mark 8:1-9
About that time there was once again a large crowd with nothing to eat. Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for the people. They have been with me three days now and have nothing to eat. If I send them home before they’ve eaten, they will become exhausted on the road. Some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples asked him, “Where could anyone get enough bread to feed these people in this place where no one lives?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves of bread do you have?” They answered, “Seven.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. He took the seven loaves and gave thanks to God. Then he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to serve to the people. They also had a few small fish. He blessed them and said that the fish should also be served to the people. The people ate as much as they wanted. The disciples picked up the leftover pieces and filled seven large baskets. About four thousand people were there. Then he sent the people on their way.

Bread and fish! Once again Jesus feeds a multitude. Once again everyone had as much as they wanted. And once again there were leftovers. Our God is a God of abundance. Malachi 3:10 says
Bring one-tenth of your income into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the LORD of Armies. “See if I won’t open the windows of heaven for you and flood you with blessings.” And Luke 6:38 reads, “Give, and you will receive. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your pocket. The standards you use for others will be applied to you.” And Jesus declared, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)

Yes he is God of abundance and yet not wasteful. The disciples picked up the leftover pieces and filled seven large baskets. The scripture doesn’t elaborate on what became of the leftovers. Jesus, who felt sorry for the people, would not have told them to gather the leftovers if he didn’t have a use for them.

What do we to do with our left overs? After our needs are met, do we selfish spend it on things we desire but don’t need? Or do we reinvest it in the Kingdom of God? Remember, “The standards you use for others will be applied to you.” If we give generously, we will receive generously.

Keep in mind, “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal. Your heart will be where your treasure is.”(Matthew 6:19-21)

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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SHHHH

MUSINGS – October 20, 2018

SHHHH!

Mark 7:31-37
Jesus then left the neighborhood of Tyre. He went through Sidon and the territory of the Ten Cities to the Sea of Galilee. Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and who also had a speech defect. They begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. Jesus took him away from the crowd to be alone with him. He put his fingers into the man’s ears, and after spitting, he touched the man’s tongue. Then he looked up to heaven, sighed, and said to the man, “Ephphatha!” which means, “Be opened!” At once the man could hear and talk normally. Jesus ordered the people not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them, the more they spread the news. Jesus completely amazed the people. They said, “He has done everything well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute talk.”

This scripture is so concise that it is difficult to sermonize. I’m not alone in think this way about the text. Martin Luther had this to say about this section of scripture, Dearly Beloved: I hope you thoroughly understand this Gospel, for it is plain. However, as we have but one old story to preach, and since it is so precious and cannot be sufficiently considered, we will apply our text also to this old story, and briefly speak of faith and love. In the first place, we will look at the simple story of the text itself; then, if time permit, we will also speak a little of its spiritual meaning.

Having said that, Luther went on for an hour long sermon anyway. Hey, that’s what preachers are paid for, right? I have no long sermon to preach, just a quick thought. Many times in this gosple the author has pointed out that Jesus kept telling people not to tell about him. “Jesus ordered the people not to tell anyone.” And in every case the word went out fast and wide about this amazing teacher and healer.

We’re not good at keeping secrets Benjamin Franklin said, Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

And Sarah Yager, writing in The Atlantic said, research shows an association between keeping an emotionally charged secret and ailments ranging from the common cold to chronic diseases [3]. Other evidence in favor of disclosure includes multiple studies showing that writing about a traumatic experience can boost the immune system [4], and the finding that teens who confide in a parent or close friend report fewer physical complaints and less delinquent behavior, loneliness, and depression than those who sit on their secrets [5].”

Perhaps the gosple spread so quickly because it was supposed to be a secret. With that in mind, I urge you to not tell anyone today that their burdens can be lifted by turning to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Shhhh!

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

TESTED

MUSINGS – October 19, 2018

TESTED

Mark 7:24-29
And rising up, he went from there to the area of Tyre and Sidon. And entering into a house, he intended no one to know about it, but he was not able to remain hidden. For a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit, as soon as she heard about him, entered and fell prostrate at his feet. For the woman was a Gentile, by birth a Syro-Phoenician. And she petitioned him, so that he would cast the demon from her daughter. And he said to her: “First allow the sons to have their fill. For it is not good to take away the bread of the sons and throw it to the dogs.” But she responded by saying to him: “Certainly, Lord. Yet the young dogs also eat, under the table, from the crumbs of the children.” And he said to her, “Because of this saying, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

I’ll admit that this encounter with and insulting dismissal of this Greek woman has always bothered me. It seems so … so un-Messiah-like. He who came to save everyone* from every time, shouldn’t turn away anyone who earnestly seeks him. Previously he had placed no restriction on whom he healed. He had saved the life of the servant of a Roman soldier**, forgave the Samaritan woman at the well,*** and crossed the sea to cast demons from a foreign man.****

This woman comes to Jesus with high expectations because of the good things she has heard about him. Indeed his fame has spread so that, evern though he intended that no one knew he was there, he was constantly sought for. He came to seek the Lord. But the lost also come seeking him.

She falls before his feet and begs for her daughter’s release from the demons who attack her. And he dismissed her with a word often used by the Jews against non Jews, “dog”. It is equivalent to a more modern term “S.O.B.” Why these hateful words from this loving man?

Take note the he didn’t not say he would not have grant her petition. He only said, “First allow the sons to have their fill.”

She wisely heard his words and responded, feed the children first but remember that the dogs must also be fed. To her credit, she did not demand to be moved to the front of the line but only asked to be heard in her turn. Because she humbled herself, her daughter was healed. He had tested her and found her faith sufficient.

There are times I take my wants and needs to the Lord and don’t immediately receive an answer. Perhaps it is because “I’m determined to have things, but I can’t get what I want. I quarrel and fight. I don’t have the things I want, because I don’t pray for them. When I pray for things, I don’t get them because I want them for the wrong reason–for my own pleasure. (personalized from James 4:2-3) And sometimes maybe I don’t receive because my faith is being tested like the woman in our scripture reading was tested.

*1 Timothy 4:10 and Acts 27:22-31

**Luke 7:1-10 Z f

***John 4:4-10

****Mark 5:1-15

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

GIGO

MUSINGS – October 18, 2018

GIGO

Mark 7:14-23
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand! Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can make him unclean. It’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. Let the person who has ears listen!”

When he had left the people and gone home, his disciples asked him about this illustration. Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand? Don’t you know that whatever goes into a person from the outside can’t make him unclean? It doesn’t go into his thoughts but into his stomach and then into a toilet.” (By saying this, Jesus declared all foods acceptable.) He continued, “It’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. Evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, cheating, shameless lust, envy, cursing, arrogance, and foolishness come from within a person. All these evils come from within and make a person unclean.”

Remember that this is a continuation of the events that began at the beginning of this chapter when the Pharisees accused the disciples of being unclean because they didn’t wash their hands before they ate.

GIGO* is programmer slang that means if the input data is flawed, them the output will also be flawed. The same principle applies in logic. If the original premiss is flawed, then the conclusion will be flawed.

The Pharisees premiss was that a person could become spiritually unclean by not following the strict observance to cleanliness and dietary laws. Jesus declared this to be a case of GIGO*. It is the mind and heart of a person that makes them unclean. Proverbs 23:7 echos this thought. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Maybe we all needed to check our lives for GIGO*.

*Garbage In Garbage Out

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

UNCLEAN

MUSINGS – October 17, 2018

UNCLEAN

Mark 7:1-13
The Pharisees and some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. They saw that some of his disciples were unclean because they ate without washing their hands. (The Pharisees, like all other Jewish people, don’t eat unless they have properly washed their hands. They follow the traditions of their ancestors. When they come from the marketplace, they don’t eat unless they have washed first. They have been taught to follow many other rules. For example, they must also wash their cups, jars, brass pots, and dinner tables.)

The Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples follow the traditions taught by our ancestors? They are unclean because they don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.’ “You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.” He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions! For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a person tells his father or mother that whatever he might have used to help them is corban (that is, an offering to God), he no longer has to do anything for his father or mother.’ Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God’s word. And you do many other things like that.”

This is an unusual confrontation between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. In most of the recorded conflicts they have, the Pharisees ask a question of Jesus for the purpose of trapping him. Jesus in turn asks the Pharisees a country question that they either can’t answer it are afraid the answer.

Jesus did not counter their question with a question this time. He went on the offensive and attacked them directly and specifically. He points out how they use manmade traditions to circumvent the laws of God.

My first reaction is, “Go get ’em, Jesus!” But one of my favorite study technically it’s put myself into the story. I’ll try to see it through The eyes of all those involved. I can be comfortable putting myself in as one of the disciples or even Jesus. But as I look through The eyes of the religious leaders, I become very uncomfortable. I am them. That makes me question my own traditions. Do they really line up with the Holy Scriptures or do I just follow them because that is what I was taught?

How about you? Are you willing to dive into the scriptures and seek the truths for yourself? Or will you just accept what you’ve been taught?

Here is an example: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” You’ve heard it before, right? Do you believe it? Don’t. It’s not scriptural, not found in the Bible. As a matter of fact it is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. He taught that the Lord helps those who rely on Him and follow His commandments.

Are you willing to accept what I just said? Or will you study to show yourself approved? (2 Timothy 2:15)

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

TOUCH THE HEM

MUSINGS – October 16, 2018

TOUCH THE HEM

Mark 6:53-56
They crossed the sea, came to shore at Gennesaret, and anchored there. As soon as they stepped out of the boat, the people recognized Jesus. They ran all over the countryside and began to carry the sick on cots to any place where they heard he was. Whenever he would go into villages, cities, or farms, people would put their sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch the edge of his clothes. Everyone who touched his clothes was made well.

This episode brings to mind the woman who for twelve years had a bleeding problem. She snuck up behind Jesus the touch his clothes for a healing. However, it is different in that these people begged his permission to touch his clothes. They knew him to be busy with healing so many others that they didn’t want to distract him from that work. We will soon come to the story of a Greek woman who begs Jesus for crumbs from the table. These are stories about humble people, faith filled people, who come to the Lord begging for help.

And the Lord responded and all were healed.

Lord, I don’t want to bother you today with my little problems. Just let me touch the edge of your clothes and I will be fine.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

ONE MORE STORM AT SEA

MUSINGS- October 15, 2018

ONE MORE STORM AT SEA

Mark 6:45-52

Jesus quickly made his disciples get into a boat and cross to Bethsaida ahead of him while he sent the people away. After saying goodbye to them, he went up a mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. Jesus saw that they were in a lot of trouble as they rowed, because they were going against the wind. Between three and six o’clock in the morning, he came to them. He was walking on the sea. He wanted to pass by them. When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought, “It’s a ghost!” and they began to scream. All of them saw him and were terrified. Immediately, he said, “Calm down! It’s me. Don’t be afraid!” He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped blowing. The disciples were astounded. (They didn’t understand what had happened with the loaves of bread. Instead, their minds were closed.)

Once more Jesus send his disciples across the sea. If you’ll recall, the last time he was with them, when the storm arose, and they were terrified. He called them cowards for their lack of faith. (Mark 4:35-41)

This time, after feeding and teaching the 5,000, here stayed behind to pray. The disciples were alone and battling the sea and the wind.

Here is the part I’ve overlooked every other time I’ve read this passage: from his view point on the mountain, Jesus could see that they were having trouble. That was in the evening. However, he waited until early morning to take his stroll through the waves. And then … and then, “He wanted to pass by them.”

It appears to me that, though he was watching over them, it was his intent that they continue to struggle under their own power … or use the power here had given them. The author said that they still did not understand, that their minds were closed.

How many storms in our lives do we have to go through before our minds are opened and we understand what Jesus had been teaching us?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams