Modern Day Evangelism

 This is why we have an evangelism class at our church

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Mark 1:1 – a preview

old-books.jpgStarting this week I will be teaching through the Gospel of Mark to our youth. I am really looking forward to this series, and have already spent many productive hours in study.  As I prepare for this Sunday’s message I have been looking at the very first verse in the entire Gospel. 

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

In this verse alone there is so much about the person of Christ to unpack.  First, we see that is good news (gospel) that Jesus has come.  Second, we see that His name is Jesus.  This name was not chosen out of hat by Mary and Joseph.  This was the name that God chose for Him (Matt. 1:21), and it literally means “salvation belongs/is from the LORD.”  Second, this Jesus is the Christ.  This is significant because Christ in the NT is equal to Messiah in the OT. He is the “Annointed One” who will bring salvation.  Finally, this Jesus is the Son of God.  Which means that He shares the very nature of God–because he is God.  He is the image of the invisible God

This first verse sets the stage for the entire Gospel of Mark.  Mark is not just recounting stories and giving cold facts.  Mark is setting forth the good news about Jesus (Salvation is from the Lord) the Christ (the long awaited Messiah) who is the Son of God (God Himself; the second person of the Trinity). 

Some Thoughts on Parenting

As a relatively new dad I am constantly trying figure things out in the parenting world. At this point is seems like there are no hard and fast rules to parenting.  Each situation is different and must be treated as such.  However, there are set principles that must be followed and must give a general direction to one’s parenting.  For instance, there are no hard an fast rules on how often you should have your kids in church.  However, as a principle you should be demonstrating to your children that the local church is an important priority.  This means that you must make it a priority in your family life now.  Sometimes issues like this lead to difficult decisions that have to be made, and the right decisions is not always made (at least not by this dad). 

As I think through my task as a parent I want to make sure that I am emphasizing some of these key principles that are important to our family.  It is very easy to allow great opportunities to emphasize these principles to slip by with no action, usually with the ever present excuse of busyness.  I have noticed in my own life that it is very easy for me to get into the routine of doing what needs to be done (meals; baths; diapers; etc.) without really doing much parenting.  I become a caretaker rather than a Dad.  This is what I want to avoid.  I want to be on the lookout for more than just “poopie” diapers.  I want to be on the lookout for how I can shepherd my daughter, and help her to see the Glory of the God I serve.  

Right now my daughter is only 18 months old, so my parenting in this area is pretty simple.  We are trying to teach her how to sit still for prayer, we read scripture with her, we are trying to teach her to love books, we point out things in nature as example of God’s beauty, etc.  At this point we know that we are just planting seeds for the future, but in the near future we are going to have to work hard to make sure that those seeds grow.  There will be “weed-picking,” “fertilizing,” “watering,” “scarecrowing,” and much hard labor.  But we hope to see these seeds grow and mature.  Not because we are great gardeners/parents, but because we are praying that God will show our daughter grace.  

Our job is to be faithful to the task that God has put before us so that He can use us as a means of grace for our daughter.  This means that we must work hard not to just be caretakers, but to be godly parents.  It is toward this goal that I have been thinking about several helpful questions to make sure that we are instilling in our daughter the guiding principles I spoke of earlier.  

  1. In what areas does my daughter need the most shepherding in?
    This is a very difficult question for most parents. Surely our babies aren’t that bad. If those other kids would just stop picking on them… The truth of the matter is the God’s word clearly states that all are sinners, even our babies. And if we are going to shepherd our children then we have to recognize this. Here is a question that might hurt a little bit: Do you spend more time comparing your child to the standard set by the other kids around them (mine is the smartest in class, the best on the team, the most well behaved at church), or with God’s standard (mine has fallen short of the Glory of God by sinning against God’s law)?  Your answer will make a huge impact on how you shepherd your child. Please don’t get me wrong, I know that this is not always easy to do.  I fall into this trap all the time.  But it is a trap that must be avoided.  A helpful way to avoid this trap, and identify the areas that your child struggles with, is to ask yourself what do I punish my child for most often?  Once you have thought this through and established some needs in your children you can move on to the next big question.
  2. What do I spend the most time on as a parent?
    In other words, now that you have established your child’s weaknesses you must now determine if you are actually addressing those weaknesses. First of all, are you just a caretaker, or are you actually parenting? Second, are you parenting in just the fun areas (reading with your kids, coaching their teams, helping them with music, etc.), or are you parenting them in every area (particularly spiritual matters)?  This is what I mean when I speak of parenting as shepherding.  We must be leading our children in all areas of life, especially in the things of the Lord.  I am constantly amazed at the parents who are disappointed that their child does not show an interest in the things of the Lord and yet they never spends any time at home thinking and talking about the things of the Lord.  My hope is that all of you have not fallen into this trap.  My hope is that all of you are parenting with a shepherd’s heart.  Which leads to a third aspect that must be considered.  Are you shepherding in the right areas?  Your child’s weaknesses are going to be unique and require unique shepherding, are you giving it to them?  At this point it is helpful to compare your corrective discipline and your positive re-enforcement.  If you are constantly having to discipline a prideful heart but always positively re-enforcing achievement then you might want to re-think your strategy.  This is where it becomes really tough.  It takes contemplative and intentional effort to be able to holistically shepherd your child in this way.  But this must be our goal, and we must be willing to exert the energy, spend the hours, and trust in the Lord to show grace to our children.    

 I believe that I have used up my allotted blogging time for today.  I hope that my scattered thoughts are intelligible to you, and at least encouraged you to think hard about how to parent with a shepherd’s heart.

A Dark Day – Good Friday

Mark 15:1-41

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole Council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

Good Friday is the commemoration of a dark day.  A day that saw the Father forsake the Son, and the Son die on a cross.  What makes this day good is that it didn’t last long.  For on the Third day our Lord Rose from the dead!   Today we remember his death, and mourn over our sins the necessitated that death.