Does obedience matter? There are two ways of viewing obedience to the directives in scripture. The first is to view obedience as a challenge: the obedient warrior. The second is to view the notion of obedience as a reminder of judgement and guilt: the broken worm.
In viewing obedience as a challenge or a directive, the obedient warrior, knowing logically all are imperfect, hears messages throughout scripture that challenge all to live a perfect life. Jesus challenges us to live holy and separate from the world. He puts obedience in our hands and within our grasp, yet reminds us, through His great sacrifice, that He will indeed cover what we cannot achieve. Our love for God motivates us to try. Our desire to worship Him calls us toward repentance and obedience as we fall on our knees and thank Him for all He’s done. Obedience is our challenge to live for God not for ourselves.
The second view of obedience, the broken worm, is the daily reminder of our inadequacies and failures. The guilt driven worms that we are can never be good enough for God, so trying is irrelevant, albeit a fruitless attempt to earn favor. Grace covers all especially since we can never achieve perfection. When we are reminded of our sin, the guilt wounds our hearts to such an extent that our only comfort is in the unfathomable grace that we don’t deserve. In our broken worm state, we comfort each other in our helpless mutual failures and all improvement rests in the hands of God, Himself.
The obedient warriors work hard to please God, but risk emotionally wounding the worms when pointing to the challenge of obedience. Further, the obedient warriors risk falling into a works-based salvation as they hurriedly try to improve fellow believers. Warriors offend people often.
The broken worms recognize God’s unmatched gift, but risk becoming entrenched in a world not meant for believers at all moving farther and farther away from Christ and holiness and further into self-gratification because after all, grace will cover even the sins we can’t help but make. Worms risk never sharing the gospel at all for fear of hurting someone’s feelings and spreading the dreaded guilt.
What I’ve witnessed is that obedient warriors and broken worms have a difficult time communicating. The first tends to smash the other with scriptural directives, and the later tends to condescend with a spiritual smirk at the smallest attempt at righteousness.
I’m not sure how to make the two groups get along. I’ve been in both camps at different times of my life. What I’m coming to is that to live completely in one camp or the other isn’t spiritually healthy at all. Rather, we need both the warrior and the worm to come together and learn from one another to created a third party; faithful workers who are willing to strive to live right by God and by one another knowing we are all a part of the redeemed.
Warriors need to depend upon God.
Worms need to bow to God.
The redeemed do both.
I stood beside a quiet lake with the Lord.
I asked Him what purpose my life holds.
He smiled at me and looked down.
He chose a stone and threw it into the middle of the lake.
The circles started small.
Until the waves kissed the shore at every edge.
“I see, Lord.” I replied.
“You want me to be the lake and feed the forest around me.”
“You want me to nurture any living being I can.”
“You want me to supply every need to this forest of trees.”
He responded with a simple shake of his head and smiled.
“No, child. I want you to be the rock.
Your life is but a vapor, a small moment in time.
You are the rock, but your life will create waves of change.”
There is a lot of talk about courage going around. In America, we seem to label just about every act as bravery from waking up and drinking coffee to listening to NPR on our commute home. “She’s so brave to give up sugar for a month.” Hogwash, I say. We are so spoiled with independence and freedom in this country that most of us nary a clue what bravery and courage look like.
Surprisingly, in the majority of cases in this country, courage is not simply posting an article on Facebook or writing a dissenting comment or even participating in hashtag marketing. Courage is not marching along with a million others who think the same way you do to prove a point and fight for your cumulative rights. It is not an act of bravery to vote for a particular candidate in this country. Courage is not simply going to church on Sunday morning. Bravery is not jumping on a bandwagon of popular behaviors only to play the victim later. Living courageously is not complaining about how life isn’t fair. (It’s not, by the way.) And courage isn’t running off at the mouth and showcasing your outrage like your opinion is a badge of honor.
Today I read about a kind of courage that is rarely seen.
Courage walks into a room full of men who have the lawful right to throw stones at you. Courage willfully ignores calls for self-righteous justice as she marches toward the focus of her gaze. Courage owns and lays bare her sinful life in front of accusing eyes who choose to only see the sin of others. Courage falls to the floor and reaches to touch the one thing she has no right to even behold…the Son of God’s feet. Courage is broken enough to use her tears to wash away the dust of a day’s walk. Courage calls herself a sinner, announces humbly to the world her low place, repents to God, and then walks away from her old life. That is courage.
In an age where sin is acceptable and even glorified, perhaps what we desperately need to witness is a bravery that is seldom seen today. What we desperately need, friends, is to humble ourselves and recognize that either we own our sinfulness or we deny it. Either we look our true selves in the mirror or we sit in denial and point our fingers at others. Either we grab a stone to throw or we bow down and reach out to the Savior’s feet.
Be brave enough to bow.
If you would like to read through the New Testament with me this year follow this link to get a free bible reading calendar. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
As is turns out, our faith is a pretty big deal. Faith is what made so many people well when Jesus walked among us. You may think Jesus healed people…and you’re right. But the language that sticks out to me in the first half of Mark is how often Jesus says “Your faith has made you well.”
Your faith matters.
Jesus left his home town because of a lack of faith. The people simply didn’t believe. So He left. Do we believe? Do we? Sure, the bible has some comforting verses and Jesus seems like a nice guy…but do we honestly believe that Jesus is the Son of God and painfully left this earth for our sins, rose from death and is coming back? If we don’t believe this, truly believe, after reading Mark, I’m wondering if our lives appear empty and hopeless simply because we have a lack of faith. Do I believe that Jesus is going to answer every prayer the way we want? No. He’s not a butler. Do I believe that Jesus may be silent in our lives because of our lack of faith? Absolutely. Don’t believe me? Read Mark.
How many times does Jesus need to predict His death before his best friends hear him? Why are they missing this? I can feel the shock and fear brewing in their hearts when Jesus is killed in these next few chapters to come. They should have all been waiting by that tomb because they already knew that Jesus was about to blast that grave wide open. Were they there?
Jesus is telling them about the most terrifying moments of His life to come and what do the apostles want to know? “Huh. That’s weird about the torture and dying thing, Jesus, but when you get up there, can I sit next you in glory?” It is a wonder that Jesus didn’t just take off to heaven and leave us all stranded down here then and there.
It is so easy in this Christian walk to forget about the omnipotent God. The God who raises dead girls to walk. The God who makes the blind see. The God who died and rose for us…the doubters, the selfish narcissists that we are. We forget Him and really we just want all this life to be easier on us. Jesus loves us. Surely he’ll make it easy on us. I mean He came all this way…
Ten chapters into Mark and I can tell you: Your faith matters. Your lack of faith will stunt you and trip you up. And the more you desire and chase after your own comforts in this world the more your life will dry up into nothing of value. Jesus is so much the opposite of our inclinations. Suffer more. Be a servant. Become less. Forget your earthly wealth and desires. Have big faith. Believe in the impossible.
Can I do this? Can we do this?
If you would like to read through the New Testament with me this year follow this link to get a free bible reading calendar. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
Dozens of movies out there reference a character in Mark 5, and it isn’t Jesus. Legion has some Hollywood creds… almost as many as Jesus Himself. I’ve seen at least three Hollywood thrillers that feature a demonic posssesion by Legion. The description of the possessed man in this chapter does give one the willies. While possessed by Legion this poor guy develops superman type strength with the anger management of Hulk. He’s able to break chains off his arms and legs and no one can contain him…; he’s not someone you’d want to meet in an alley. Legion didn’t fear much…except Jesus, the one who rid the world of him by way of pigs.
Mark 5, while rich in miraculous works, leaves me wondering exactly how much does our faith matter when we expect big things from God. The bleeding woman was healed because of her faith. Jarius’ daughter opened her eyes from death after Jesus encouragement to Jarius to simply believe.
“Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Jesus said to a man whose child was dying…now dead.
Do I trust that Jesus can do big things? Do I? Do I have the faith to push against the crowd and fight my way to the Savior simply to touch the hem of His clothes… because that’s all I need?
I don’t think I do. I know I couldn’t handle someone telling me not to fear if something was wrong with my child.
I have a lot to learn and a bigger faith to nurture.
I’ve been every soil. I’ve been rocky; excited one minute and dried up the next. I’ve had thorns; some grown by myself and some thorns planted by others all strangling the life out of my faith’s seedlings. My faith has been trampled on by passers by, and I’ve allowed life-changing faith lessons from others to slip through my busy mind. I’ve been every soil.
At forty years of age, I know to protect my faith. I know to avoid toxic people who wish to destroy it. I know to intentionally give myself time for my faith to grow. This lesson was a long one. It took years of experience and years of witnessing what un-protected faith grows in to. Un-protected and un-fertilized faith grows into nothing. It either remains immature and eeks out a God-life built upon random experience and selfish feelings. OR it is a faith left to dry up and is simply a forgotten past experience.
I’m thankful for my parents who first cast the seeds of faith into my heart.
I’m thankful for my Christian college professors who taught me how to nurture a growing, independent faith.
I’m thankful for friends whose deepest prayer for me is for my soil to remain healthy and my roots of faith to grow deep.
I’m thankful for churches who provide classes that teach faith building lessons and scriptural truths to build faith upon.
There are four characters in the parable of the soil; the farmer, the soil, and the villains (thorns and rocks and birds). At some time in your life you may have been the farmer and tried to spread the gospel to others. This only happened because someone tossed a seed into your soil, and you let faith grow there. Perhaps you’ve been the villain, and you’ve tried to discount someone’s faith or squelch their growing faith because of your own faith doubts. What it comes down to is this…we each choose what kind of soil we are. We choose whether to nurture our faith. We choose whether to fight off birds or pluck out life’s thorns. We choose whether we let faith grow. And ultimately we choose whether or not to toss out seeds that are grown from our mature faith’s garden.
After spending my life in ministry, first with my parents and now my husband, I’ve seen Mark 4 in action many times. It’s all about your soil. How’s yours? Have you been casting seeds yet? Each day you make a choice. Are you nurturing your soil, casting seeds, or does major weeding need to happen?
Jesus’ work was spiritual transformation. Yet everyone around Him kept pointing to earthly needs, laws, and traditions. Jesus’ priority was the spirit. Is ours? Are our churches cozy couches of tradition or are they feast halls full of the broken? Maybe our prayers for healing should be more about healing our sin lives instead of appeasing our physical needs and comfort levels.
Jesus physical healings drew crowds. BIG crowds. Again, we see people get pumped when their lives get better. Friends did crazy things, property destroying things, to get friends in to see the Healer (verse 4).
People followed Him for the magic. The teachers of religion followed Him wondering what the hype was. The Pharisees followed Jesus looking for mistakes. Did anyone follow him for spiritual healing?
In Mark 2 we see Jesus rebel against traditions of fasting and Sabbath. Jesus points to good that could be done instead of pious ritual. In Mark 3, we see that even Jesus’ family begins to question his sanity. I wonder if His family ever questioned his sanctity as well?
Jesus mission was clear. His mission was to do good regardless of what OUR earthly expectations are. His mission is to do what is right regardless of what family expected. His mission was to spiritually revive the world left to practice an impossible law book under the watchful eyes of hypocritical law keepers. Rebel Savior. His blood changed and challenged religion and challenges our relationships today. Who do we choose? Who do we listen to? Are we seeking the Spirit and rebelliously living separate from the world’s expectations?
There’s more to the word herald than angels at Christmas. In Mark 1, John, the Baptizer also cousin of Jesus, paves the way and heralds/announces Jesus’ forthcoming. The moment John baptizes Jesus, the torch of heralding the gospel is passed onto Jesus himself. In verse 15, it says that Jesus preached and He called people to two things repent and believe the Good News. I’m guessing our friend Mark will get to exactly that “Good News” is as we read on.
Oddly, Jesus was baptized which we read about starting in verse 9. Why did Jesus do this? John baptized people to show that they had repented of sins (verse 4). Jesus didn’t sin, did He? Why the symbolic cleansing? Did He know we needed this example? Jesus gives a brief explanation of why he was baptized in Matthew 3, but we haven’t gotten there yet. So stop jumping ahead.
From there, Jesus called the first apostles/ more heralds (verse 16): Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew. Then later, James and his brother, John. And as far as I can tell, these guys met Jesus, dropped their lunches, and followed Him like my pugs when I’m eating a ham sandwich. James and John literally left their dad, Zebedee, in the boat with a fishing net to drag onto shore with some (no-doubt confused) hired fishermen. So either these guys were major followers without much else going on in their lives OR there was something amazing about the One who called them. Have you ever considered how little it took to convince the first four apostles to join the cause of Christ? I’ve always wondered what the untold dialog was regarding this. Did any wives or girlfriends have an opinion about them abandoning income, profession mouths to feed and simply taking off across the desert?
Finally, it seems Jesus healed as many people as He could, but then didn’t want anyone to know about it. Though, Jesus had to have known that when you tell someone not to say anything is when they will definitely say something to everyone they know. I do appreciate that Jesus always made time to be alone for prayer and rest.When I read verses like these it makes me wonder if Jesus was an introvert…but I know better. Healing stories in the bible make me wish I had lived at the time. I’d love to see a blind person see for the first time or a deaf person hear music for the first time.
But I live today. And today we live in the tension of wondering whether miracles still happen, and if they do, why do they only seem to happen for the lucky people? Perhaps, a more spiritual person would say that today’s healings are more about spiritual healing and less about physical comforts, and that the healings of the bible were only for a certain time to prove Christ was who He said He was. Nevertheless, we have this tension, if you believe in Jesus, that miracles once DID happen, but today, dead sons and daughters only wake to a spiritual home into the arms of Jesus but not into ours. Most Christians I know don’t feel comfortable discussing that tension, and if they do, it’s often due to simplified explanations like ‘God needed an extra angel when He called your baby home’. I’ve never been comfortable with simplified explanations for loss.
This is what we know: Jesus WAS a healer. And He healed people in every way. He healed physical disabilities AND spiritual deformities. He wore Himself out trying to help everyone and trying to share a message that hadn’t been heard in a very long time; you are loved. And THAT is how they first recognized the Savior, as the perfect One who would make this life, and the next, better.
Today I’m starting a goal to read the entire New Testament throughout the year. My plan is to write a short blog post after each reading. I’d love for you to join me and read along. The reading plan is not daunting at all. It’s one chapter a day only Monday – Friday. Easy sauce!
I learned that my sassy grandmother read through her bible more than five times in her golden years. Mind you, she didn’t have three kids in three different schools participating in seven activities. BUT if sassy NinaZelle can make it through the whole bible, then certainly I can make it through the New Testament one measly chapter at a time.
Please join me and share your thoughts about what you read after my blog posts!
Go here to get the reading schedule! West Houston Church Reading Plan
I hope to hear from you soon!