The Red Words #1 11/27/18

Welcome to a new series on Coffee and Commentary – the “Red Words” – the very words of the Lord Jesus which in many Bibles are printed in red, making them easy to find. 

While all four gospels have a large number of verses which quote the words of Jesus, for our study, I’m going to focus on the Gospel of Mark as it is universally identified as the very first Gospel to be written.  Though Mark was not one of the apostles, he worked closely with Peter after the Ascension, heard Peter’s sermons, gathered all of Peter’s memories about the words and works of Jesus and sometime between 50-70 AD, wrote the scroll we now know as the Gospel of Mark. 

Before we delve into Mark’s Gospel, it’s worth our while in this first post in the series to address the reliability of the New Testament.  While I trust this is not an issue for any of my subscribers, you may well encounter people who question the validity of the Gospels and these few comments may help you in speaking with such people.

Just as the Hebrew Bible contains the history and prophecies that witness to the first covenants of God with Israel, so the early Christians gathered memories, experiences and texts that bore witness to the life and ministry of Jesus.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel writers then recorded for generations to come the person, the character and the life on earth of the Lord Jesus.

Abundant evidence supports the reliability of the New Testament.  First of all, the amazing unity of the entire Bible – Old and New Testaments – speaks powerfully of a divine authorship. The more of the Word that I learn, the more amazed I am at the incredible weaving of God’s Redemption plan throughout all of the Bible.  Literally hundreds of prophecies contained in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) are fulfilled in the New Testament.  Considering that the varying ‘authors’ span centuries, only the Spirit of God could have orchestrated such a perfectly unified and revelatory book.

Secondly, the early church acknowledged the divinity of Jesus from the very start because that is what the apostles taught, as recorded in the New Testament. Written by ordinary men, not literary geniuses, the authenticity of the gospels stems from the fact that those who wrote were eyewitnesses, or, as in the case of Mark, gathered their facts from eyewitnessesALL of the New Testament writers placed great value on eyewitness testimony.  Consider these verses:

For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard…’  Luke writes in Acts 4:20

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.’ Peter records in 2 Peter 1:16

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…I John 1:1

Thirdly, as reported in the book of Acts, thousands of people accepted the Lordship of Christ and His redemptive atonement before a single word of the New Testament was committed to parchment. Christianity is founded on historical events – the life, death resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  It is not the figment of someone’s imagination, nor a cleverly devised religious system from the minds of man.  It’s – simply put – all about Jesus.

Fourth, there are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts in existence, most of which are carefully housed in temperature and humidity controlled locations to preserve them.  By contrast, there are only about 1800 fragments and manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad, less than 10% of the New Testament texts. 

The New Testament writers reported what they actually saw, heard, experienced and witnessed during the three and a half year ministry of Jesus.  Their testimony is true, reliable and deserves our total acceptance.

In short, the Gospels declare to us that the Christ of prophecy in the Old Testament is the Christ of fulfillment in the New. The Messiah hoped for in the Old Testament is the clearly presented realization in the New. The expectancy of the Jews in the Old Testament is transformed into experience in the New in which the long-predicted Messiah is revealed in all of His fullness.

With that background, let’s turn to Mark’s Gospel. 

Mark skips over the birth and early life of Jesus which Matthew and Luke recorded.  As already stated, by asking Peter questions and gathering Peter’s memories, Mark was able to write a clear and persuasive gospel which generations since then have enjoyed, studied and absorbed.

In Mark 1:14-15 we read: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’

repent

The Jews had been waiting for centuries, looking and hoping for a Messiah whom they anticipated would be a military, political hero.

Instead, the first instructions they hear are: ‘Repent and Believe…’  This was shocking.  Can’t you hear the reaction?

‘What do You mean, Jesus, telling us to repent? ‘  they may well have cried out.What about those Romans? Why don’t you tell them to repent? They treat us harshly and besides that, they shouldn’t even be here.  This is our land.’

But REPENT was the first commandment.  It still is.

REPENT and BELIEVE.

True repentance is an expression of humility; that is, an acknowledgment that we are not perfect, superior or righteous.  We have sinned.

Why didn’t Jesus say BELIEVE first and then REPENT?  (Bible study tip: When you study the Word, not only the actual words but the order in which Jesus spoke them is important.)

I suggest there are two reasons why REPENT comes first and BELIEVE comes afterward.

Before we can have any relationship with Jesus, we must acknowledge our own  sinfulness.  We fail miserably at being our own sufficiency.  We make a mess of our lives quite easily. Until we REPENT of our selfishness, our egoism and our inclination towards sin, we fail to BELIEVE that we even need a Savior. 

Repentance expresses our need of a Savior; Believing enables us to receive the salvation we so desperately need. 

REPENT is more than a word; it’s a behavior.  The word means ‘to turn around’, ‘to change’. 

BELIEVE is also more than a word; it’s a surrender to the only Person who can save me from myself – the Lord Jesus Christ.

From Mark’s perspective this was the Lord’s first message, the foundation on which to build a relationship with Him.

Mark, of course, was right. 

 

 

Snippets from My Journal # 17 November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving 1999         [the first Thanksgiving after the death of my late husband, Mike]

Thanks1

Lord, You know this is the hardest Thanksgiving of my life. It’s only been three months and sometimes I still feel like I can’t even breathe.  Will it get any easier?  How do I go on without him?  I always assumed we would grow old together, play with our grandchildren together and just enjoy life together, teasing each other about things that older people tease each other about.

But he’s gone – I know he’s with You, rejoicing in Your presence, but if you don’t mind my saying so, Lord, that doesn’t do a lot to soothe the ache in my soul. I miss him so much.

Selah….

Yes, Lord, I hear You.  It’s Thanksgiving.  What do I have to be grateful for this year?

Oh so much, despite the grief.

Thank You, Lord, for Your sustaining grace.  Thank You for Your presence when I come to You each day.  Thank You that You give me inner joy even when tears roll down my face.

Thank You, Lord for the gift that Mike was in my life and in our children’s lives.  Thank You for how You used him in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.  Thank You for the messages he preached in words and by his example – messages I will never forget.

Thank You for the privilege of being his wife, standing beside him as he fulfilled his calling as a pastor.  Thank You for his humor that made us laugh; for His compassion that comforted us and for his exemplary prayer life.  The memory of seeing him on his knees morning after morning, seeking Your face propels me to do the same.  Thank You for the hundreds of precious memories that nothing can take from me.

Selah….

You’re right, Jesus.  You’re always right.  Though Mike is not here with us, I still DO have so, so much to be thankful for.

More than anything I want to thank You for You, Lord.  Thank You for coming to this earth for our Redemption.  Thank You that You conquered death and the grave; thank You for the eternal hope You plant in our souls when we give our lives to You.  Thank You that we can look forward to an eternity with You and our loved ones.

Jesus, there’s SO much I am thankful for – I could write a book, but it’s not a book You want, it’s my unconditional surrender to You and Your purpose for my life.

Have Your way, Lord, have Your way with me.  Grant me grace to carry on the legacy Mike left us – passionate love for You, for Your Word, for prayer and for servanthood.

I love you, Jesus – I’m so thankful for YOU in my life. I praise You and I worship You for Who you are and for granting me the grace to know You.

emptychair

And Lord, if it’s possible, would You just tell my beloved Mike ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ for me?

 

 

Snippets from My Journal #16 November 13, 2018

November 13, 2007   (exactly eleven years ago today)

Lord Jesus, it was written of you in the book of Hebrews that You are ‘the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact representation of His nature’.  Heb. 1:3  So I guess I could say that you are the mirror image of the Father.  How incredibly awesome is that!

But You say that You want us to be a mirror image of You.  I feel so inadequate! I want to and yet how often I stumble.  Will I ever be able to be a reflection of You, Jesus?

mirror

I heard the Lord reply, ‘No, you won’t; you’re not able but I am.  It is My life within you that will make you a reflection of Who I am. Do not take on a responsibility you are incapable of fulfilling.  Just take Me and let Me do it in you.’

Lord, I’ve given myself to You a hundred times – maybe a thousand times over the years – and I still get frustrated when I want to be like You and I fail.

Jesus: ‘Did you listen to yourself? Did you hear what you just said? It is not by your effort; it’s by your surrender that you become like MeSurrender means to stop resisting, to yield, to give in, to cave in, to back down.  To surrender to Me is a moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day habit of yielding to what My Spirit says to you and what My Word teaches you. It’s actually simple on the one hand and extremely demanding on the other.  The principle is simple; but to live it consistently is where the challenge lies.

I realized as I pondered what the Lord said that the key to living a surrendered life is learning to hear the voice of the Spirit within.  I can’t submit if I don’t hear the instruction.  I can’t yield if I don’t hear the warning.

Lord, I cry out to You for the ear of a disciple. My mind talks too much; it never stops.  It’s as if I have this ‘radio’ on within me, always ‘broadcasting’ thoughts, ideas, feelings, opinions.  How do I turn it off so I can be quiet in Your presence and hear what You say to me?

Yes, Lord.  I heard that. The more I spend time in Your Word, the more my mind will come under discipline.  Thank you, Jesus.  Grant me grace to be faithful.

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Snippets from My Journal #15 November 6, 2018

February 28, 2017

And looking at them, Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’  Matthew 19:26

impossible

Lord, forgive me for all the times in my life when I thought that the solution to a situation or circumstance was ‘impossible’.  Forgive me for small thinking!

This present circumstance is only impossible when I measure it by my limited thinking and my limited understanding.  But Your Word says that I ‘have the mind of Christ.’  In Your mind, Jesus, there’s NOTHING impossible about this present situation – absolutely nothing!

You have unlimited ability and creativity to resolve situations and turn circumstances around to Your purposes for my life.  My frame of reference is so limited; yours is limitless.  When I think something is ‘impossible’ it’s only because I’m using limited human measurement or perspective.  Forgive me, Lord, for my limited thinking.

You are outrageously GOOD! You are unlimited and unstoppable, and You delight to do what is beyond our imagination, what exceeds our dreams, and what overwhelms our small thinking.  When You act according to Your infinite wisdom and love towards us, we fall on our faces in awe and wonder at Your greatness and Your glory.

Lord, I love it when You surprise me! I love it when Your answers to my cries are so ‘out of the box’ of my thinking that I am reminded again of how great, how awesome, how loving, how compassionate, how merciful and how utterly amazing You are!

Jesus, I don’t want to live by my human understanding.  Nor do I want to live by the so-called wisdom of this world. I want to live by Your wisdom, Your understanding and Your perfect timing for I know that ‘impossible’ is not in Your heavenly dictionary!

Lord, You know my deep desire – You know the burden of my heart at this time. Lord Jesus, please surprise me again. I cast down every imagination of how You will answer my prayer; I choose to wait on You with full expectation of another heavenly and delightful surprise, for You act according to Your holiness, Your righteousness and Your boundless love.

I love you, Lord. By Your Holy Spirit, grant me grace to fulfill what the Father wrote in my book.

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Note to my readers:  Whatever is happening in your life right now that seems impossible to you, I challenge you to move out of the ‘impossible’ mindset and lock on to God’s limitless possibility and creativity.  There is NOTHING too hard for God; NOTHING impossible with Him.  And His ways are far beyond anything we can imagine, so trust Him and He WILL make the impossible, POSSIBLE!

And He’ll do it in such a way that only HE gets all the glory!