Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"There is no Santa Claus folks"

I've taken Economics 101. That means I know next to nothing about economics. I do know that the "bailout" (perhaps the better term would have been "sell-out") failed, and I cannot say that I am disappointed. Again, I am not an economist, and I have not totally grasped the reason(s) for this collapse. I do, however, understand that $700 billion of taxpayer money is an astronomical figure, and to hand it over to the very people who have helped create the mess in the first place does not compute. Even had I taken Economics 201 I still don't think the bailout (in the form which was defeated) would have made any sense.

For my rabidly conservative friends, I'm talking about those who believed the bailout was the right thing to do just because the President was pushing it, please understand that
133 of 199 Republican representatives voted against the bill. This was not Democrats shooting down Republicans; this was Republicans versus Republicans. House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) may have endangered his already precarious leadership position by pushing for this legislation.

Would the bail-out been the corrective measure the economy neeeded? I'll state it again: I am not an economist; however, an economist that I highly respect was not in favor of the bailout. Thomas Sowell, whose columns frequent my "Shared" list on this blog, in an interview with newsmax.com said that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout could have signaled “the end of the free market.” Click on the link and read the interview. I believe it is a sane analysis and commentary on this fiasco. Here are my favorite excerpts:
Sowell said economic losses are just as important to capitalism as profits, because losses help people learn to make better decisions. Bailout plans “don’t take into account that people learn from paying the price for their mistakes,” he said. A bailout would encourage an entitlement mentality in which people seek to earn profits while being protected from losses. People need to take individual responsibility for their decisions instead of looking for taxpayers to cover the losses, he says.
The interview ended with the quote that provided the title of this post.
“Go to the American people and tell them, ‘There is no Santa Claus folks. If you want to take risks you are going to pay for it,’” Sowell said, adding, “Compassion should extend to taxpayers as well as everybody else.”
Another person whom I admire and respect is Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). He is from Indiana's 6th District, which includes a portion of Dearorn county; my home county. Rep. Pence voted against the bill. He had this to say:
Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail. The decision to give the federal government the ability to nationalize almost every bad mortgage in America interrupts this basic truth of our free market economy. Republicans improved this bill but it remains the largest corporate bailout in American history, forever changes the relationship between government and the financial sector, and passes the cost along to the American people. I cannot support it.
I understand that something needs to be done, but I'm glad that this something wasn't done.

(HT to Doses of Reality for the linked articles.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's Good on the WWW

I've been too busy this week to post anything, but there have been some posts on blogs/sites I follow that are worth your time. My recommendations are as follows

Greg Gilbert asks and answers the question "What is the Gospel?" in a three part series. Here are the links: Part one, part two, and part three. All three posts are excellent, but if you only want to read one then click part three. Gilbert (no relation BTW) correctly states that Christ not only proclaimed the coming kingdom, but He also proclaimed that in order to enter the kingdom one must repent and believe. Gilbert writes:

To proclaim the inauguration of the kingdom and the new creation and all the rest without proclaiming how people can enter it---by repenting and being forgiven of their sins through faith in Christ and his atoning death---is to preach a non-Gospel.

I agree.

I want to also include a lengthy quote from his third post in the series for two reasons. One, it is an excellent thought, and, two, he alludes to Pilgrim's Progress. That is always a good thing. Here is the quote:

It is wrong to call a person a Christian simply because they are doing good things and "following Jesus' example." To be a Christian, to be a partaker of the blessings of the Kingdom, requires one first to go through the gate—that is, to come to Christ in faith and be forgiven of sin and atoned for. Bunyan tells the story in Pilgrim's Progress about the characters Mr. Formalist and Mr. Hypocrisy whom Christian meets on the path to the Celestial City. After a moment's conversation, however, Christian realizes that they had jumped the wall to the path rather than going through the Wicket Gate. The upshot: These two are not Christians, regardless of how well they are now navigating the path. To change the characters a bit, there are many people out there (hello emergent church!) who need to realize that Mr. Jesus-Follower and Mrs. Kingdom-Life-Liver are not Christians---not unless they’ve come to the crucified Jesus in repentance and faith for the forgiveness of their sins. A person can "live like Jesus lived" all he wants to, but unless he goes through the Wicket Gate of atonement, faith and repentance, he's not really come to Christ. He's simply jumped the wall.

I could not have said it better myself; which is why I included this quote.

My next recommendation is a lucid post by Dan Phillips on abortion, especially how it relates to the feminist reaction to Sarah Palin. It is provocatively entitled "I'll Just Say it: Women Aren't Fit to Decide" Everyone should read this brief post.

Al Mohler's blogposts are almost always worth a read, and that is certainly true of these three:

Finally, Dr. Russell Moore asks and answers two questions with which every pastor must grapple. They are: Should a Minister Officiate at the Weddings of Unbelievers? and Should a Minister Preach the Funerals of Unbelievers? Whether or not you agree with the Dr. Moore, you will appreciate his reasoning and will be provoked to Biblically think about these topics.

I most likely will not be posting anything until next week, or the week after, unless it's a quick sports post. Therefore I encourage you to give the linked articles above your attention.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

U.G.L.Y.

That is the only way to describe the drubbing that my beloved Hoosiers received at the hands of the Ball State Cardinals. Yes, that is not a misprint: the Ball State Cardinals. Never before had the Cardinals beaten the Hoosiers. Tonight they not only beat IU, they embarassed them, and they did it in the Hoosiers' house. The Hoosiers were dominated in this game, particularly in the second half. They were never able to stop the run; which makes you wonder what will happen next week against Michigan State and Javon Ringer who piled up over 200 rushing yards against the Irish today. The pass rush didn't. Greg Middleton's name was never called, and if the Ball State O-line is able to silence IU's best pass rusher...well, it may be a long season.

Kellen Lewis played poorly. His physical abilities are always dazzling, and his scrambles accounted for much of IU's rushing yardage. But he made too many poor decisions. His ridiculous pass into coverage as time expired in the first half gave Ball State a 28-20 lead. That was the beginning of the end for the Hooisers today.

Ball State is a good team. They may win the MAC championship this year, but IU should never be humbled by a MAC team in Bloomington.

I had high hopes for this team returning to a bowl game. Michigan and Ohio State are not on the schedule, and they started the season with four straight home games, with a bye before today's debacle. IU needed to begin Big Ten play 3-0. Instead, they are 2-1 and vulnerable. If they continue to (not) play defense as they did today, and if Lewis continues to make poor decisions, then this team may not win four games.



I know the feeling.

Saturday Morning Cartoons




Monday, September 15, 2008

Jesus Protects

Picking up the narrative in Mark 6:47-48a we read: “And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them.” In other words, they were in the middle of a big storm. Beaten by the waves and blown by the strong, contrary wind, the boat was by this time a long way from land; about three to four miles according to John (who would never forget that night).

Just a few hours before, the apostles had witnessed one of the greatest miracles of the past two years. They had been on a mountaintop of spiritual and physical blessing, but now they were in the middle of yet another violent and unpredictable Sea of Galilee storm. They were “toiling” at the oars to prevent their dinghy from going down. The word means to be harassed, distressed, and tortured! In other passages it is translated as tormented or vexed, and the word was used to describe testing the purity of precious metals.

Keep in mind that the disciples didn’t want to be out there in the first place. They wanted to be with Jesus, but He had made them get on board and begin the trip without Him. They were in this miserable mess because they obeyed Jesus. There is a lesson here we must not miss, and I cannot put it any better than Warren Wiersbe when he wrote:
Spiritual blessings must be balanced with burdens and battles; otherwise, we may become pampered children instead of mature sons and daughters.
They were uncomfortable because they were obedient. Had they disobeyed they may have been able to sit out the storm in a cozy lakeside dwelling while impressing their host with stories from “traveling with Jesus”. Instead, they were toiling in rowing, making slow, painful progress. What should have been a quick trip along the NW shore of the Lake had turned into a long battle with the elements, and they were still no closer to their destination; all because they were obedient to Christ’s command. Beloved, if you obediently submit to Christ; if you are committed to a Biblical lifestyle and philosophy, you will be exposed to a variety of sorrows.

Graham Staines was a Baptist missionary from Australia to India. He lived and served in the province of Orissa for most of his adult life. He met his wife Gladys on the mission field, and that is where their three children, Esther, Philip, and Timothy, were born. In January of 1999, Graham took his sons to the remote, almost inaccessible, village of Manoharpur for a four-day jungle camp. The terrain was so rough that reaching the village required an off-road vehicle. Staines had a four-wheel-drive Willys minibus that allowed him to get there, and he and his sons slept in the vehicle each night. Graham and his sons were well known and well loved by the villagers there, and he would teach them every year on a broad range of subjects ranging from public health and hygiene to the gospel, which he unapologetically proclaimed. God blessed his labor with fruit; about 22 low-caste families were converted.

Over the years, Hindu radicals in the surrounding district used the false charge of “forced conversions” to incite hostility against Staines' work. Sometime in the early-morning hours of January 23, a mob of more than 100 angry Hindu radicals approached the vehicle where Graham Staines, nine-year-old Philip, and seven-year-old Timothy were sleeping. The group surrounded the automobile, trapping Staines and his sons inside. They doused it with gasoline and then torched it, burning Staines and his two young sons alive. The mob kept would-be rescuers at bay for more than an hour; making sure the missionary and his sons had died. As flames engulfed the vehicle, the mob danced and some shouted, “Justice has been done; the Christians have been cremated in Hindu fashion.”

If you never obey Christ you may miss some of those contrary winds, but you’ll never experience the winds of the Holy Spirit in your sails bearing you on in service and power. Obedience will bring contrary winds, but it also brings abundant and everlasting joy.

We are told that in the evening – “when even was come” – Jesus saw the ship in the middle of the Lake, and “he saw them toiling,” but He didn’t come to them until “the fourth watch of the night.” The fourth watch of the night is from 3 – 6 am. Jesus waited to come to them. As the evening wore on, and Christ waited, the worse things became. It looked as though Christ was neglectful of them. It seemed as though He had forgotten to be gracious.

In the midst of a difficult obedience it would be easy, having toiled all night at the oars but making no progress, to begin and second-guess your obedience and the One whom you have obeyed. “Doesn’t Jesus see what I’m going through? Doesn’t He know? Does He care? Why did He allow this to happen?” During difficult days human tendency is to imagine a blind God, but our text proves otherwise. “He saw them toiling in rowing.” He was aware of the storm. He was aware of their challenging situation. He was not indifferent or uncaring, but He waited before coming to them.

This tested the faith and patience of the disciples. Believers and churches would do well to remember that the Lord not only is Creator of the light but of the darkness as well. Not only does He bring prosperity, but He creates calamity; not to tempt His people but to test them. We would also do well to remember that God is never in a hurry. We may believe that His watch needs a battery, but He waits for His own good time. Omnipotence can afford to wait. It is always sure of success, and because omnipotence is combined with infinite wisdom and love, we may be certain that God not only does everything in the right way, but also at the best time. The prophet Isaiah wrote (30:18):
And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD [is] a God of judgment: blessed [are] all they that wait for him.
What do you do when the circumstances are dark and the conditions difficult? What do you do when you’ve been toiling in rowing all night but you haven’t gotten anywhere? You continue rowing! The disciples continued their rowing. It was all they could do, and it was all that was required of them. As A.W. Pink wrote:
Dear saint, whatever may be the path appointed by the Lord, however difficult and distasteful, continue therein, and in His own good time the Lord will deliver you.

Jesus sees us, empathizes with us, prays for us, protects us, and, in His own and perfect time, delivers us. We must continue to row; overcoming fear with faith. Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. We must recognize the insufficiency of our own strength and wisdom and learn that His grace is sufficient.

That is not always an easy lesson to learn, as the apostles prove. Sometime between 3 and 6 in the morning, having painfully struggled throughout the night at a task they had not chosen for themselves, Jesus came to them walking upon the same waves by which they were harassed. It seemed as if He would walk right past them! Was He ignoring them? No! Here is Pink yet again:

Christ does not force Himself upon us. He never intrudes. He waits to be “received.” It is the welcome of our hearts that He desires.
There had to be some response from them before He would be of any benefit to them.

The response could have been better. Mark says: "But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw him, and were troubled." Their fears had mastered them. They did not at first recognize Jesus because they were not expecting to see Him. They were not expecting deliverance. The miracle of the loaves and fishes, an event they had just witnessed hours before, was now completely forgotten. How tragically accurate they portray us. We so quickly forget the Lord’s past mercies and deliverances; so little do we really expect Him to answer our prayers of the present. We may even reject His help when it comes because it does not come in the way we expected.

The voice of the Lord should clear our heads. Terrified at His sight instead of trusting, Jesus immediately spoke to them: “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid”; ten simple words that changed everything for the wearied apostles.

"Be of good cheer"A word to their emotions
"It is I"A word to their minds
"Be not afraid"A word to their wills

Total chaos was followed by total calm once Christ stepped into the boat. We read:
And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not [the miracle] of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

Time and again, and especially just hours before, Jesus had shown Himself to the Shepherd of His people. They should have known that He would not abandon them in their troubles. The Lord had sent them on their way and come what may He would see them through.

Having seen so many miraculous works their hearts were calloused. Like Herod with John the Baptist, it is possible for us to be hearers of God’s Word and still have hard hearts towards it. That generally comes as a result of being hearers only and not doers. We must be both, and we must never cease to be amazed by God’s amazing grace, by the power of His mighty hand.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jesus Prays (so should we)

The miraculous story of Christ supernaturally feeding the thousands with only five loaves and two fish abruptly ends with a word familiar to Mark's Gospel – “straightway”. We read in verse 45:

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go unto the other side before [him] unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

We’ve hardly had time to catch our breath from what has just transpired under the setting Galilean sun when Christ dismisses the massive multitude and orders the apostles to grab a boat and set sail. One cannot help but wonder why Christ now decided to send the crowd away. Initially the apostles were the ones saying, “Send them away”, but now it is Christ who wants the throng of people to disperse. Why now?

The Apostle John provides insight into Christ’s rationale in his record of this event. The beloved disciple wrote in John 6:14:

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

This is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15-22 where God told Moses:

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

This seems like a good thing. The people of Israel had finally realized that Jesus was their Messiah. This should be a time of rejoicing, but John adds this in v. 15:

When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

Jesus sent the people away, even though they properly identified Him as the Prophet of whom Moses had written. He did this because the people only desired a Messiah who would meet their physical needs; they were not concerned with their spiritual need for repentance (Mark 1:15). Later, when the crowd caught up to Jesus, He said to them, “You are seeking me because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” They desired an earthly rather than eternal redemption. They wanted a Messiah who would heal their hurts and fill their bellies but make no demands of them.

Jesus is not that Messiah.

He would perfectly fulfill the Father’s will according to the Father’s timetable which had been determined from eternity past. It was not time for the kingdom to be established on earth, but rather in the hearts of men and women who would humble themselves before the Lord, repent of their sins, and follow Him. Instead of falling down before Him as sinners in need of mercy, the crowd would “take him by force to make him a king.” Jesus would have nothing to do with that. He would not be made to do anything, much less be forced by unrepentant people with selfish motives to be their king. Thus, “He sent away the people.”

Jesus did not and does not want shallow commitments or minimal devotion.
John MacArthur writes:

Jesus does not acquiesce to whims or fancies. He comes to no man on that man’s terms. People cannot manipulate Him for their own selfish ends. Some modern evangelists, in an attempt to be “seeker-friendly”, present Jesus to unbelievers as a quick fix for felt needs like health, wealth, and self-esteem, superficially marketing Him as everything unbelievers want. But this turns the Gospel message upside down. People do not come to Christ on their terms, so that He can heal their broken relationships, make them successful in life, and help them feel good about themselves. Instead, they must come to Him on His terms. Jesus graciously loves believers and grants then a rich legacy of joy, peace, and comfort. But at the same time, he calls sinners to mourn over their sin, repent, and acknowledge Him as sovereign Lord, to whom they owe complete obedience. He withdraws from them who seek Him for their own self-serving ends, just as He did from the crowd that sought to make Him king on their own terms.

But why did Jesus send away the disciples? For two reasons, and the first flows from the above. Most likely the Twelve were thrilled with the idea of Jesus being made king. Their understanding of the kingdom was immature; too nationally and politically focused. No doubt they were thinking, “Yes! Finally, after two years the people see that Jesus is the Messiah!” I’m sure that they were confused, and maybe even a little disheartened by Jesus’ dispersing the people at this point.

The second reason Jesus sent the disciples away was to teach them a lesson on faith. For much of the last two years they have been with Jesus night and day, through thick and thin. Just recently He had sent them forth two by two so that they might proclaim the Gospel. Soon Jesus would be physically removed from them, and they needed to be prepared for the work that lay ahead of them once He had departed.

The Twelve were not keen on leaving Jesus. They wanted to be where He was, and that is the desire of every true disciple; to be with Jesus. They did not want to be separated, and they must have put up an argument for Mark says that Jesus “constrained his disciples to get into the ship.” This was not the course of action that they wanted to take, but it’s what Christ commanded. It’s what He called them to do; so, they obeyed.

While His infant church set sail on the Sea of Galilee, headed for Capernaum by way of Bethsaida, we read that Jesus: “When he had sent them away, departed into a mountain to pray.” Yet again Christ sets the example for His followers in the area of prayer. Throughout this book and within this particular story Jesus is seen “coming apart” for prayer. It was the reason for the planned retreat in v. 31. In v. 41 He asked the blessing on the food He miraculously served to the thousands. Here He is privately communing with the Father following a long day of ministry and temptation. Make no mistake, the crowd's enthusiastic desire to make Him king was a repeat of the wilderness temptation of gaining the Crown without enduring the Cross. Jesus was one with the Father; still He modeled Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing.” In times of crisis He took to the mountain or the garden, and to His knees.

I cannot feed thousands from a sack lunch like Jesus did. I cannot walk on water, command nature with a word, or heal the sick. I cannot speak with the same inherent authority with which Jesus spoke. My preaching authority comes from Him, it is not my own. I am able, however, to pray as Jesus prayed. I am able to regularly spend time down on my knees in prayer.

We need to make time for private prayer. We must pray before the work, during the work, and after the work; indeed, prayer is the work. Do not just admire and talk about Christ’s pattern of private prayer. Imitate Him. Follow that pattern. Encourage and enable others to follow that pattern. For instance, not all mothers can send their little disciples away in order to have time alone with God. Not all husbands realize that their wives need such times, as they do themselves. We must plan for and enjoy seasons of private communion with the Father, and do what we can to help others do the same.

On a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee Jesus Christ knelt alone in prayer. Down below, on the water, His infant church was beginning to struggle. We may be sure that Jesus included His young church in His prayers that evening. That is an image which we should etch upon our hearts and minds because it brilliantly portrays a marvelous spiritual truth: Jesus prays for His people. He prays for us!
1 Timothy 2:5 – “For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

Romans 8:34 – “Who [is] he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

Hebrews 7:25 – “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Luke 22:31-32 – “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired [to have] you, that he may sift [you] as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

John 17:20 – “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”
One of the most blessed and assuring truths of sacred Scripture is that the Lord Jesus Christ is in glory praying for His storm-tossed churches and people. At times it may seem that He is far removed from us and unaware of our pressing needs and concerns, but that is never the case!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Difference Between Indianapolis and Cincinnati

What's the major difference between the Indianapolis Colts organization and the Cincinnati Bengals?

Besides winning (Colts) and losing (Bengals).

Character is the difference. Ed Johnson used to be a defensive tackle for the Colts.
That was before he was arrested for possession of marijuana. The morning after his arrest Johnson was released by the Colts. Johnson has a checkered history. While at Penn State he was disciplined three times by JoPa. This includes being suspended for the entire 2005 season, for "alleged" sexual misconduct and confinement of another student against that person's will. No charges were filed from the "alleged" incident. Johnson was also suspended for Penn State's 2006 Outback Bowl game for violating unspecified team rules.

My point is that Johnson had character issues, but the Colts were willing to give him a chance. He was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007, and he started every game for the Colts last year, including their sole post-season game. He also started in the Colt's Sunday night season opener. Given his history of poor decision making the Colts made certain that Johnson knew that if team rules were broken he would be held accountable. In the words of Colts GM Bill Polian:
He was repeatedly told this during the offseason. Along with his teammates, he was reminded as recently as (Tuesday) of coach Dungy's rules of behavior. Unfortunately, he chose to violate those rules. Given the circumstances surrounding Ed's original employment with the Colts ... we have no choice but to take this action.
I can't imagine that position being taken by Mike "the Redeemer" Brown.

In his brief Bengal career WR Chris Henry has been arrested five times! Of course, he was only one of 10 Bengals arrested during a 14-month span. One local judge referred to Henry as a "one-man crime wave."

Henry, like Johnson, had character issues coming out of West Virginia. This first round talent wasn't selected until the third round because of his off-field problems. Unlike Ed Johnson, Henry was not and is not being held accountable for his actions. After releasing the WR following his fifth arrest, Mike Brown promptly re-signed him, against the wishes of head coach Marvin Lewis, to a two year contract. Upon resigning the one-man crime wave Mike Brown said:
I guess the world is divided up between redeemers and non-redeemers. I happen to be a redeemer. I think people can be made better and right. If that's a fault, so be it.
Oh, that's touching! Personally, I believe Henry was resigned because Chad Johnson, er...I mean, Chad Ocho Cinco has been injured and TJ WhoseYourMomma is not 100% either.

The Colts have team standards and hold their staff and players accountable to those standards. The Bengals have no standards, which of course means no accountability. That's the difference between Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Every 44 Seconds

What can happen every 44 seconds? If you're on the Slovakian women's hockey team and you're playing Bulgaria then you can score a goal every 44 seconds. Seriously. The Slovakian women defeated, humiliated, and literally crushed their Bulgarian counterparts 82-0. If you're not familiar with hockey, that means there were more goals scored than minutes played. The game was 7-0 after five minutes, 19-0 after 10, and an unbelievable 31-0 after one period. Down 77-0 with three minutes to go, Bulgaria put in its backup goaltender, who promptly let in another five goals on five shots in just 1:25 of playing time. "We took it as training," said Slovakia coach Miroslav Karafiat.

Wonder how the Bulgarians took it? Here's how:
What the Slovaks did to us was kind-of an insulting mockery, and is not at all sportsmanlike
That's according to the Chair of the Bulgarian Hockey Federation Dobromir Krustev.

"Kind-of" insulting? I don't know why he was so upset at the Slovaks. In their previous matches the Bulgarians lost 30-1 to Croatia and 41-0 to Italy.

Jesus Provides pt. 3

The Apostles were still developing the attribute of compassionate care that their Master divinely displayed. These men were dead tired, and probably a little aggravated. After all, their much needed retreat had been interrupted. The day was late, and they still hadn’t eaten. It was time, as far as they were concerned, to close down the service and send the people home. So they came to Jesus and said: “This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: send them away…for they have nothing to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36)

There is nothing like stating the obvious. Was Jesus unable to ascertain the terrain? Was Jesus’ watch broken? Did He think the event was catered? Of course not; Jesus knew where they were, what time it was, and that no one had eaten in a while or had anything to eat at the moment. This is another case of the disciples telling the Master what to do.

Back in chapter one, after Christ had spent the entire day healing the diseased, exorcising the possessed, and proclaiming the Gospel, He departed to a solitary place to pray (v. 35). When the cadre, led by Peter, finally found Jesus’ quiet place, they told Him, with a hint of reproach, “Everyone is looking for you.” They were saying, “Why are you out here alone when everyone is clamoring for You? Let’s build on Your popularity.” Jesus simply answered, “Let’s go into the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I have come.”

At the end of Mark 4, when the disciples think their boat is about to be sunk, they wake Jesus up and say, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Jesus asked why they were so afraid, and He rebuked their lack of faith.

The disciples were way to proficient at telling Jesus what was happening and what needed to happen. They not only stated the obvious, they also gave Him instruction: “Send them away.” Pragmatically speaking this doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. After all, it was late, they were in an out-of-the-way place, the people were hungry, and there was nothing to eat. The people would have to leave the place and enter the surrounding towns and villages if they were to have any hope of enjoying supper. On the surface this was a sensible suggestion.

Then Jesus gave them an uncomfortable and seemingly impossible command. He said, “You twelve feed them.” Imagine their faces! We know from John’s gospel that it is Philip who said with more than a tinge of incredulity, “I’ll tell you right now, Jesus, that 200 hundred pennyworth would barely feed this mob!” Penny means denarius; an average worker would earn one denarius per day. “We’re talking 5 ½ months of wages, Jesus. We don’t have that kind of money, and besides, would you want us spending that much to feed them?”

Their tone was disrespectful. After all, this was just too much to ask, even if He was the Master. But Jesus wouldn’t quit. “Well, how much food do you have?” The twelve were clueless as to how much food was available, so Jesus orders them to conduct an inventory.

What a futile exercise. There was no possible way that they would find enough food among the people to feed everybody. Mark says there were 5,000 men and Matthew says there were women and children there as well, yet Jesus wants the Apostles to feed them. It’s an impossible task.

The inventory was finally finished, and the numbers were predictable: five loaves and two fish. Again, John records that Andrew was the one who reported the tally to Jesus, and he said what the others were thinking: “But what they among so many?” “There’s not enough money, to feed these thousands, and all we have is a little boys’ lunch. What can we possibly do with this? This is an impossible situation.”

Was it impossible? Yes, it was. It was impossible for the Apostles. It would be impossible for me. This was an impossible situation. You cannot feed thousands of people with one sack lunch. It was also an impossible situation when the storm almost sank the boat. Likewise, it was an impossible situation with the Demoniac. That man couldn’t be rehabilitated or restrained. Yet, the storm was stilled and the Demoniac healed, and, in just a moment, the thousands would be fed. How? Because “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). Don’t forget the meat of Jesus’ message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” An indication of that fact was about to be demonstrated. The unanswered question from the previous passage – “Who is Jesus?” – is about to be answered.

Jesus directs the Apostles to assemble the thousands in seated groups of hundreds and fifties. When I read this my mind immediately runs to the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” He wanted the people organized so that all could be fed in an orderly fashion. Jesus was about to spread a table in the wilderness!

When everyone was seated, and there was room to navigate between the groups, we read:
And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave [them] to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled.
Jesus provided!

He provided as only He could. “Who is this Jesus?” you ask. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear: He is God incarnate, the Creator of the universe; only the Creator is able to feed thousands of people with five loaves and two fish. These thousands were not filled by an optical illusion, hypnosis, or some other silly theory, and it’s not as if they were rationed. Everyone had bread and fish aplenty: “they did all eat and were filled.”

This creative power of Jesus is not only evident in miracles such as this. His creative power is most clearly and gloriously revealed in the creation of a new man via the new birth. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for our sake so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old having passed away and the new having come, and all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself.

Jesus provides! He will provide deliverance for you from the bondage of sin. He will be your Shepherd, if you come to Him in repentance and faith. He will deliver you, and He will totally satisfy you.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep that they may have a new and abundant life. The 23rd Psalm states “My cup runneth over”; a truth that is here vividly illustrated. Thousands were fed from five loaves and two fish. Everyone ate to their fill, and there were twelve baskets full of leftovers; one each for the “send them away” apostles. Just picture them for a moment; each one lugging a basket full of leftovers, perhaps thinking to themselves “Each one of us is carrying more than we started out with, and we’ve already fed thousands!”

Christ’s provision was complete, total, and satisfying then, and it still is now. In Luke 1:53 we read: “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” All men are hungry, but only those who will acknowledge their hunger and come to Him to be fed will He feed. Those who believe they have no need of Him will He send you away hungry. “Rich” here is used as an antithesis to “hungry”, not as a condemnation on those who have money.

Paul said in Colossians 2:9-10: “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power”

Beloved, Jesus completely satisfies! Who is Jesus Christ? He is not John the Baptist returned from the grave. He is not a mere prophet of God. He God’s only begotten Son, the Bread of life. By His death and resurrection we may have life. He is the Good Shepherd who compassionately cares; powerfully provides, and superbly satisfies. He is the one who calls us to give what we have to Him, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant it may appear to be.

This is who Jesus is. Do you know Him? If you know Him, do you look and act like Him? The man who cares nothing at all for the souls of others is no like Jesus.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Jesus Provides pt. 2

The retreat would have to wait. Evidently, Jesus and His Apostles did not depart as privately as they thought. The enthusiastic crowds spied the cohort loading onto the boat, and they ran along the shoreline to where the boat was headed. The wind must have been against the boat, and the sea may have been a little contrary. Whatever the case may be, a god number of people advanced onto the retreat place, and more were arriving so that that thousands were in the scene. Instead of slipping away to a solitary place, the Lord and His men simply changed venues. It is here that we clearly see, as if we hadn’t already in Mark’s Gospel, that Jesus is filled with compasstionate care for people.

Mark says:
And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
The wonderful nature and disposition of the Lord is here displayed. Some people (read: me) would be more than a little put out that their planned retreat had been crashed by several thousand people. After all, Christ and His men had already poured a tremendous amount of time and emotional equity into these people. They had ministered to so many for so long that they had not even eaten (v. 31; also 3:20).

It would have been perfectly reasonable and understandable for Jesus to say, “We’re not available at the moment.” In His humanity Jesus was just as physically and emotionally fatigued as the others. He was just as hungry as were they. His disciples were also in serious need of a little respite, but the crowds simply would not relent. So when Jesus stepped out of the boat and into yet another massive multitude, instead of a quiet deserted place, He was not moved with indignation. He was not perturbed at the people. He was “moved with compassion.” In the Greek that phrase is “splagchnizomai”, an intense verb meaning “to be moved as to one's bowels.” “The bowels?” you ask. Yes, the bowels, because they were thought to be the seat of love and pity. Just like we use the heart as the focal point of deep yearning, passion, and compassion. We’re talking about something that affects you not only physiologically and psychologically. Jesus looked out onto the colossal crowd and was stirred to the very core of His being.

Jesus looked at these people and didn’t see party crashers. He didn’t see intruders. He saw sheep with no shepherd. The funny thing is the people may have in fact looked like sheep to Jesus. Mark tells us that the area was covered with green grass (v. 39), and considering that much of Middle Eastern garb is lightly colored, they may have conjured up an image of thousands of sheep aimlessly wandering about a meadow. Whether or not it did we can't say with certainty, but we may be certain about this: He viewed them as sheep in desperate need of the Shepherd’s care.

They were shepherdless sheep, but they were supposed to have shepherds. There were priests and teachers of the law, but they had failed to nourish them. There was King Herod. He should have shepherded the people; instead he fleeced the sheep, indulging his own lusts and pride at the expense of his subjects.

Not so with Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep (John 10:10). Jesus is the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek out the one who is lost, and when He finds it He lays it on His shoulders rejoicing (Luke 15:4-5). Therefore, it is no surprise that Jesus looked out on this vast throng of people and saw sheep in need of a Shepherd, because He had, (and has!) a shepherd’s heart. Christ cares for the souls of men. He is willing to save them, and invites them to believe and be saved. It is because of this that we read the fantastic phrase at the end of v. 34b: “and he began to teach them many things.”

What are shepherdless sheep? They are bewildered, beleaguered, stressed, harassed, famished, and lost. The Good Shepherd looked out onto that crowd and He knew the hearts of each individual. He knew the families that were experiencing tragedy. He knew the married couples that were at odds with one another. He knew the individuals who were struggling in some other aspect of life. Just as He knows the hearts, minds, struggles, and sins of each individual who is reading this post (as well as those who aren't).

How did the Good Shepherd meet the many and the differing needs of the sheep? It wasn’t by prescribing medicine…psychoanalysis…monetary subsidies…a myriad of church programs or a massage. He sought to meet their divergent and desperate needs by teaching them many things.

What?! Teaching the Bible?! What good is that? Why was Jesus teaching them?
Many people ask the same thing when they encounter churches where the Bible is expositionally taught. “My marriage is dissolving and you’re waxing eloquent about Jesus feeding the 5,000. Thanks for nothing!” What relevance is there in teaching God’s Word? I’ll let King David answer. He said:
The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there] is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
The only thing of any temporal and eternal value that we have to give to people is the Word of God. The only way to truly serve people is to proclaim and perform God’s Word; apart from it we have nothing of any value to say or do.

Jesus taught them many things. He taught them that He restores sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. He restores dead daughters and sons to their parents. He commands disease and demons to depart. He called (and calls) people to repent and believe the Gospel, because the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Why? Because Jesus cares.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jesus Provides pt. 1

Begin reading in the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel at verse 7 through to verse 44, and you’ll notice that verses 14-29 form a parenthetical statement to the narrative of verses 7-13 and 30-44. Jesus had called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. They, in turn, went out and proclaimed that people should repent, and they cast out many demons, anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. That is the story of verses 7-13. Then the parenthetical statement is given, which declares that the testimony of the Gospel had even reached the court and ears of King Herod Antipas. The works and words of Jesus and His Apostles had inflamed the suppressed conscience of the King; a conscience racked with guilt over John the Baptist’s murder. The implied question in verses 14-29 is “Who is Jesus?” Some said “Elijah”, others said a “prophet”, but Herod was certain that He was John back from the grave; the grave to which he had been unjustly sent by Herod.

None of the above suggestions were correct, but Mark answers the question with the section before us: verses 30-44. This is Mark’s account of Jesus’ feeding the 5,000. It naturally flows from verses 7-13, and it masterfully answers the question “Who is Jesus?”

Mark tells us that the Apostles recounted to Jesus all the stuff that had transpired in vv. 12-13. We read:
And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
They returned from their outreach ministry excited about what God had done in and through them. “Jesus, this is where we went. This is what we said,” they reported. “Lives have been touched and changed, and questions are being asked in the community, all the way to the palace.” That is supposed to happen, isn’t it? When the followers of Christ actually follow Him, speaking, behaving, and caring as He did, then lives will be touched and changed; people will be curious as to what on earth is happening. That is what we see here in Galilee, and it is what we should see in our communities as well.

Following the Apostles’ report Jesus decided that the time was right for a retreat; a brief break to recharge and regroup. So we read in vv. 31-32:
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
The Lord never asks His followers to do what cannot be done. He not only faithfully provides a way of escape from temptation that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13), but He graciously allows and recommends physical and emotional respite as well. No one can work, work, work all the time without some break; even if they think they can it is not possible, no matter what the work is. Regardless of the scale, constant attention to public work is likely to make one forget and/or neglect private “soul-business.” It is far better to “come apart” and “rest a while” than to fall apart because you haven’t.

Jesus had already established a pattern of slipping away on occasion when overwhelmed by the physical and emotional demands of the ministry. When Jesus retreated, however, it was not to run away from responsibility. Christ retreated to a quiet place that he might spend time with the Father in prayer in order that He might be refreshed and renewed.
Mark 1:35 – And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Luke 6:12 – And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Mark 6:46 – And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

Luke 9:28 – And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
If your holidays involve less spiritual activity – prayer, Bible reading and meditation, etc – than your normal schedule then you have a problem. This is why JC Ryle wrote
There are but few in danger of overworking themselves, and injuring their own bodies and souls by excessive attention to others. There are comparatively few who need the bridle nearly so much as the spur.
Be real enough and honest enough with yourself to know which one you need and use it - the bridle or the spur - when necessary.

Friday, September 5, 2008

History in the Making



One of the most intriguing aspects of this election is the historical nature of it. Regardless of who wins this election America is in for a first; either the first black President or the first female Vice President. Not only is this historical, but it's impressive. As an American I am proud that Barack Obama has been nominated for President, and that Sarah Palin has earned her party's VEEP slot. No matter how you feel about either candidate, and I have gone on record as opposing Obama, this is a positive step forward for the USA.

For someone to not vote for Obama because he is black is the summit of stupidity and ignorance. If someone claims to be a Christian but dislikes Obama because of his skin color that person does not understand what it means to be a Christian. There are plenty reasons why I oppose the Obama-Biden ticket, and none of them have to do with melanin. Support a candidate based on the issues, the candidate's character, and his/her experience or lack thereof. Don't base your support or opposition on skin color.

Appreciate the fact that this is indeed an historical election for the USA; in more ways than one.