Wednesday, July 26, 2023

David & Bathsheba: How to Not be a Man after God's own Heart

The title of this message is “How to not be a man after God’s own heart.”

So, if you want to follow God and love God and live for God, just do the opposite of everything in 2nd Samuel chapter 11.

There are two incidents that are the most famous in David’s life. The first is of course David’s classic battle with Goliath. Everyone knows that one. Even most non-Christians know that one. But second to David and Goliath is the incident we’ll be discussing today, David’s battle with Bathsheba.

David won the battle with Goliath. David lost the battle with Bathsheba. But it wasn’t really Bathsheba he was fighting. He was fighting himself, fighting his own nature. His own temptations. And he lost that battle.

He made a terribly evil decision. Then he made it worse and worse and worse.

It says in 2nd Samuel 11 verse 1, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”

They’ve gone through winter, and now it’s spring, and Israel goes out to fight the ammonites, to continue the wars that were raging in the previous chapters, to defeat and subdue the enemy kingdoms surrounding Israel.

Normally the King would lead the armies in battle. But instead, King David sends out Joab and he stays behind at the palace.

First point today, we all know how important it is to stay busy, to stay active in our work, to stay engaged in our mission. When we get bored and we just sit home everyday, we stop going out, that idleness becomes a danger to us. Pretty soon we’re making some bad choices, and headed toward addictions, sins, and disaster. Stay active in your life. Stay on mission. Get out of your house and do things with people. Work a job. Volunteer somewhere. Exercise regularly. Share your faith actively. Don’t sit on your hands. Because bad things can happen very quickly when we get bored.

Next, in verse 2, “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful…”

Have you ever looked at a woman, or a man (ladies), and been suddenly very smitten with them? You’re overcome by her beauty. You’re overcome by how handsome he is. And the feeling is surprisingly powerful. I’ve experienced that before. I’m sure you have too. You don’t even know the person. But you become overcome with emotion over them. You become almost obsessive.

Sometimes this happens, and someday we’re married to that person. But what about after we’re married to someone and we become smitten by someone else we see walking by? Or a friend?

It can be very dangerous. Because we’ve made a commitment to someone else. And now our emotions are surging over another person. That’s why we as humans can’t allow ourselves to be controlled by our emotions. Our emotions will betray us. Our emotions will lead us into trouble. We have minds, an intellect, to override our emotions when our emotions are wrong.

Point number two today is this: Don’t be led by your emotions and desires, allow your intellect and conscience to override your emotions.

But it is astonishing to see how many people simply do whatever feels good. And this attitude leads to disaster. It leads to affairs. It leads to hell. Fight off that desire, with your mind, with your heart, and with your conscience.

Only a child is ruled by their emotions. Adults are guided by their conscience and their intellect.

Now David, being married already, should’ve said, "Well, I’ve just noticed this beautiful woman. She is beautiful. That’s cool. And now I’m going to move on with my life." 

But he doesn’t do that. He begins to take actions to go after her.

In verse 3 it says, “...and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”

David finds out from his messenger that this woman is married to Uriah. Again we have another opportunity for David to make the right decision, to think to himself: "Oh no, this woman is married, I can’t go after her. Time to end this before it even begins."

We sometimes hear about people who have affairs on their wife or husband. And when they replay the series of events, they can’t quite figure out what went wrong. Suddenly we were in bed together. No, there was a string of events that took place. Bad choices were made, one after another.

They started flirting with you. Now it’s easy to signal to someone in conversation, to back off. But instead you started flirting back. You enjoyed the attention. The flirting got you excited, pretty soon your emotions started taking over. Then you decided to meet up together for coffee. Again, you could’ve easily said no, I can’t do that it wouldn’t be appropriate. And step by step, the compromises start coming.

The best thing you can do is draw a line in the sand immediately and say no, I’m going to signal to them I don’t like this extra attention, even if I am kind of enjoying it. Because I know where it will lead.

Many people tell me they never tried drinking or smoking, because they knew they would like it too much. Brilliant. Similarly, if you’re married, and they start flirting with you, immediately know that if you engage with it, you’ll like it too much. So don’t do it.

Third point today is this: If you set firm prevention measures you can make sure these situations never happen. If you set firm boundaries for yourself, to avoid affairs and sexual immorality, those boundaries will protect you when you’re feeling lonely and weak. Then you’ll gain victory.

Let’s see what happens next, as David pursues this situation. Verses 4-5: “Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”"

King David has now committed adultery, a grave sin. Few sins are worse than adultery. Betrayal or murder would be worse I think. But adultery, sleeping with another man’s wife, or another woman’s husband, is a truly devious sin. It goes deep, and it is highly destructive. It destroys families. It destroys marriages. It’s harmful to children. It’s harmful to the community. It’s overall a terrible sin.

King David, a man after god’s own heart, has committed a severe sin. In addition to the sin David has committed, Bathsheba reports back to David that she is pregnant, later on of course.

What does David do next? Does he realize the evil he has done, and ask for God’s forgiveness? No, David begins to attempt to cover up his sin.

Point number four, if you do end up sinning sexually in some way, bring it before God immediately and confess it to him, and ask His forgiveness
. Confess it to your wife or husband if it’s appropriate to do so. If you’re single, confess it to God. Seek forgiveness from God and from your marriage partner. Then get some support/help if necessary, and make plans to ensure it never happens again.

So, Bathsheba is pregnant but her husband Uriah is off in battle with the army. So let’s see what David does next: verses 6-10:

“So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.”

10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

To cover up his sin, and the new baby, David brings Uriah back from the front lines of the war, and he is hoping Uriah will go home and sleep with his wife Bathsheba. But it doesn’t happen.

David demands why didn’t you go home? You’ve been at war, and you didn’t go see your wife. Why not?

In verse 11 is his response:

11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Uriah is a godly man, he doesn’t feel it would be right for him to go home while Israel is at war.

It says in verses 12-13: Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

Despite David getting Uriah drunk he still doesn’t go to his wife. Now David is in big trouble, because now Uriah is leaving without having been with his wife.

You can see David sinking down into this pit, one compromise after another. First you sin, then you do something to cover up your sin. I remember many times between me and my sister, we’d blame something on each other, then lie about it, then cover up what we did, and it would just get worse and worse as we lied and manipulated things.

In the end friends, it’s better to simply tell the truth. It’s harder to remember all the lies we told, then to simply tell the truth. My grandma used to say that, it's better to tell the truth, then you don't have to remember everything you lied about. 

Point number five, sinning can become a tangled web of lies and deceit. We see this in our government right now there is so much corruption and double standards and some people protected against the law, and others where the law is used against them as a tool to harm them. Double standards and lies and corruption. It’s no wonder institutional trust in our country is at record lows.

Don’t be like that friends. Be honest. Be authentic. Be truthful. Avoid the webs of lies and deceit. It never ends well for people who spin those webs. They just end up caught in the webs they spun.

Next, King David’s sin gets even worse. It says in verse 14-17:

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.”

Essentially, what happens here is King David murders Uriah to cover up his own sin. He sets things up for Uriah to be killed in battle.

Point number six friends, sin leads to more sin. One of the reasons that sin is so terrible and has to be dealt with so severely by the Lord, is because sin is contagious, sin spreads like a virus, like bacteria, it spreads and spreads, and one sin leads to another.

Put sin to death in your life, otherwise it will multiply. Sin leads to more sin. Putting sin to death leads to purity and life.

Heaven is a place without sin. That’s why it’s perfect. So put sin to death here on Earth. End it in your life, with Christ’s help, and you’ll enter heaven in purity. Otherwise sin spreads like cancer.

Next in verses 18-27, we see the chapter conclude this way:

18 Joab sent David a full account of the battle. 19 He instructed the messenger: “When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, 20 the king’s anger may flare up, and he may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asks you this, then say to him, ‘Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.’”

22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king’s men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”

25 David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.”

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

David’s plan to cover up his sin has seemed to have succeeded. Uriah is dead. And Bathsheba has been taken into David’s home as his wife. But I’m sure the word is spreading. I’m sure some people have noticed what David has done. These things affect more than we might first expect.

Any sin in my life, as a pastor, is going to affect the entire church negatively. Any sin in your life, is going to affect your loved ones, your family, your friends, and your character. Sin affects much more than we’d expect. Since it affects us negatively, of course it’s then going to affect others around us.

David’s plan hasn’t really succeeded. Because God sees it all. And it says God was displeased by what David had done. These sins, of adultery and murder are going to affect the entire nation, because David is their King, their leader.

When our leaders in the United States, our presidents and congress, when they sin, does it affect us? It certainly does. It affects how we see our own country. It affects us because we become disgusted with the sin and corruption in our nation. It stains the public’s trust in the government and institutions that uphold the nation. Similarly David’s sin will change the future of the nation.

The last point today is this: Sin will affect more than we expect. So turn from your sin quickly and put it to death. Then, just as much, your purity in Christ, your witness of faith in Christ will impact others. It will impact more people positively than you might expect. Your witness of faith can change entire communities. People will be transformed because you dared to live for God. Dare to live for God today. You’ll impact hundreds, even thousands. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Transfiguration of Jesus: What is the 'Mountain Top Experience' Christians talk about?

Have you ever had an experience in your life where you saw something beyond this world?

These experiences are rare. We live in a physical universe and we experience life in the physical universe. But, we know there are many things that go beyond what can be perceived by our five senses.

We know that the law of gravity is true, but we can’t see it. We can see the effects of it. We know that thoughts existence. But we can’t see them. We know that feelings, like love exist, but we can’t see them. We know things like atoms and electricity exist, as well as radiation and energy fields, but we can’t necessarily see them.

We also know, instinctively, that a spiritual universe exists. That it exists in the same place and time as we do right now. And that we interact with it through prayer and worship and other forms of Christian living.

There are rare moments though, in our lives, when we do see the spiritual reality around us.

These experiences are quite rare. But I’m sure there are times in your life when you remember sensing God’s presence. Or you saw an angel for a moment. Perhaps you saw something in a dream that you knew was from God. Maybe you’ve even had a vision from God, like the apostle Paul did, of heaven, or hell.

Many have seen these things. Brief glimpses into the spiritual realm.

And that’s what we’re going to be talking about. A moment in history when the spiritual realm broke into the physical universe and became visible to the naked eye for just a few moments. Experiences like that change your life forever.

In the Bible we see various individuals who had spiritual experiences. Some of them include Jacob, who had a dream of a a staircase leading into the sky, Isaiah who saw God and was terrified. Ezekiel, who saw an angel. Elijah, and Elisha, who saw angels. Daniel, who when he saw the son of man, collapsed in terror and lost all strength in his body.

Often these experiences are associated with fear and sorrow at the complete and utter holiness of God. To see even a part of God’s holiness, we are intensely aware of our sinfulness.

When Simon Peter saw the miracle of Jesus providing the catch of fish for him, he said to Jesus go away from me, I’m a sinful man.

But Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid.”

Just as was said to Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah, don’t be afraid.

I think if any of us saw the throne of God, we’d instantly lose a lot of our questions and struggles with faith.

So then why doesn’t God show himself to everyone? Because then there would be no free choice. You’d be compelled to believe. He wants people to freely choose him.

Today we’re talking about an event in history where Jesus is revealed to be supernatural, to be beyond this world, to be God in human form.

This is a shocking moment for the disciples, three of them, who are his inner circle. Only Peter, James, and John are invited for this moment. They are the closest followers. Only they may see this.

But we’re going to see how this event is deeply connected with the Old Testament, and other events where God meets with man. The whole Bible, it’s all connected, and we can’t understand the word properly unless we understand those connections.

This event in the life of Jesus is called by theologians “The transfiguration of Jesus.”

This is for me the center piece of the gospel of Mark. Last week, and this week, we’re seeing the very beating heart of who Jesus is. Last week we talked about the crucifixion, the carrying of the cross, the death to self, and Jesus predicting his own death.

Now we see the hope after such darkness, is new life, is resurrection life, is the fact that Jesus is alive. And this event foreshadows the fact that Jesus would resurrect three days after he died.

From Mark 9:2, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.”

First, notice it says after six days. This is the number of days Moses waited, before the glory of God was revealed to him.

From Exodus 24:16, “...and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.”

Second, notice that they are following Jesus up a high mountain. Note that Moses met with God on mount Sinai. And Elijah met with God on mount Horeb. Both up high mountains.

Third, consider the Greek word for “transfigured.” It is the word Greek word “metamorphoō” met-am-or-fo'-o which means to be changed into another form.

Interesting note is that the Greek work “metamorphoō” is the same word used by the apostle Paul in describing the transformation the Holy Spirit does in the heart of the Christian.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed (G3339) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

And in 2nd Cor 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed (G3339) into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

It says in verses 3-4: "His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus."

Here in this moment the disciples are seeing Jesus as he really is. When Jesus came on this rescue mission to be born into a human body, he would come in disguise, as a plain looking human. He was and is in fact the son of God, the Lord, but he had to come in disguise to achieve his mission.

They see for a moment that Jesus is more than a man. He is glowing, he is bright, he is shining with God’s glory.

And not only that, suddenly, two men appear with Jesus, Elijah and Moses.

Why Elijah and Moses? Elijah was the greatest of the prophets, Moses represented the old testament law, and Jesus is fulfilling all of it, the whole old testament, is being fulfilled in Christ. The law, and the prophets, Jesus came to fulfill. As it is written.

At this moment Peter starts rambling. They were all so afraid, he didn’t know what to say, but felt he should probably say something. In verses 5-6:

"Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)"

Next, we see an event called a theophany, which is an appearance of God in the Bible.

In verses 7-8: "Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus."

Just like the tent of meeting in the time of Moses, a cloud would descend over the tent of meeting, and God would commune with Moses, and talk with him.

The voice of God comes forth, and says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Jesus is my son. I love Jesus. Listen to Jesus.

Pretty simple, pretty straight forward, listen carefully to Jesus

God the Father, the God of Moses, the God of Elijah, comes and gives his official stamp of approval on Jesus in this moment.

We sometimes hear Christians talking about mountain top experiences with God. There are times in my life where God has made something very clear to me. He has changed the course of my life. He has called me to a new place or a new mission. He has delivered me from something. He has healed me of something.

That is a mountain top experience. It’s an encounter with God. We come into contact with God in some way, not necessarily a giant flashy event where we see God or hear God’s voice, but, it’s fundamentally this: a moment when we encounter God in some way.

That is the mountain top experience many of us seek in our lives time and again when we need it.

Do you need a mountain top experience with God in your life right now? Seek after the Lord. He calls us to those moments, but in His timing, not our own.

They are often short moments. Just a brief word. A nudge. A sense from God. A scripture repeated to you. A breakthrough. A new hope. A new refreshing. A feeling. A dream. A blessed conversation you had with a close friend.

To have connection with God though, takes getting along with God. It takes going off somewhere alone and sitting with God, talking to God, and seeking His response. Many will do this by doing something in nature. Climbing a mountain. Hiking long trails. Bike riding. Sitting in a beautiful place and praying. Sitting somewhere and reading the Bible for hours. Don’t be afraid to seek those experiences with God. God wants to communicate with us. But we need to seek Him out to have that.

Next in verses 9-10. “9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.”

A mountain top experience is very often something meant for you only. You had this experience with God, and it’s for you. Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about this experience, until after he has died and risen from the dead.

And here I think we get the hidden meaning of the transfiguration. Jesus had said in chapter 8, I’m going to be crucified. It’s explained as the way of the cross, the way of death.

But here we get a secret of what’s coming, Jesus would not stay dead. He would rise from the dead. He would live again. Just as in the transfiguration Jesus glows with the glory of God, so Jesus would resurrect, and have a new resurrection body. Jesus would rise from the dead.

Lastly in our scripture today, the disciples ask Jesus a question, in verse 11: And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

And the Lord replied in this way, verses 12-13:

Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

The teachers of the law knew prophecy indicated that Elijah would come to make the way for the messiah straight.

Jesus explains that this was John the Baptist, who came baptizing in the wilderness, getting people ready for Jesus to come on the scene later.

And John the Baptist was mistreated, and then arrested, and later put to death by Herod as we saw in previous chapters of the gospel of mark.

So in conclusion today, we see the great mountain top experience for the disciples, as Jesus was transformed into his true nature, a being of bright light, talking with Moses and Elijah, and then God the Father himself came forth declaring Jesus to be His son.

We find emphasized this simple point: The messiah must rise from the dead to be the true messiah. Jesus told his disciples well ahead of time, I will bodily rise from the dead 3 days after they kill me.

If not, then I was just a liar. But, if it really happens like that, then you’ll know that I’m really the son of God.

We don’t serve a dead Jesus today. Why would we? That wouldn’t make any sense. We serve a Living God, a living savior, a living Jesus Christ. How could he answer our prayers if he was still dead? How could he save people today? He is alive. He did in fact rise from the dead. And he showed himself to many witnesses after rising, to prove to them, see I’m alive, I’m not a ghost, I’m God, and I’m alive, and I’m the savior you need, to forgive you of your sins and give you new life. Only Jesus can do that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

David's victories over the Ammonites: How to Walk in Wisdom

Too many people in our world make dumb decisions and reap the consequences. The Bible calls this person a fool. But the Bible also talks about a person who lives differently. They "walk in wisdom." Let's discover how we can walk in wisdom. To do that, I think we’re going to be talking a lot about knowledge, wisdom, and careful tactics and strategy.

We all need that in life. That’s why the Bible includes books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. These are the wisdom books. Particularly proverbs, includes numerous short depictions of wisdom, how to make difficult choices in various situations to find victory.

But all the books of the Bible are good for that. And 2nd Samuel is no exception.

So again, in 2nd Samuel Chapter 10 we’re going to see David attempt to show kindness to someone who has lost something.

It says in 2nd Samuel 10 verses 1-2: "In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.”

David sends a delegation to show support to the new king, Hanun, after the loss of his dad.

Proverb 3:3-4 says, “Don't ever forget kindness and truth. Wear them like a necklace. Write them on your heart as if on a tablet. Then you will be respected and will please both God and people.”

Or perhaps he was thinking of Proverbs 16:24 ESV “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

David is using wisdom by not forgetting kindness. He’s hoping this will result in pleasing both God and people.

But Hanun’s advisors misinterpret this offer of friendship and assume these are spies instead.

In verses 3-4: “When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.”

Hanun treats these men very badly. He seizes them, has their beards half cut off, so they look ridiculous, then cuts off their garments, so their rears are showing. And sends them back.

Brutally insulting moment for these men.

Proverbs 15:1 ESV “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Verse 5: "When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.”

David cares for his men who have been dishonored.

Care for those who are hurting. Sit with them. Talk with them. Listen to their sorrows. That is wisdom as well.

The Ammonites could’ve sent delegates to try to make peace or send a gift, because proverbs says that a gift to a king can help turn away wrath, but instead they gather their troops and also hire mercenaries, in verse 6:

“When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David, they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maakah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob.”

So David responds by sending his troops out as well, in verses 7-8 it says, “7 On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men. 8 The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle formation at the entrance of their city gate, while the Arameans of Zobah and Rehob and the men of Tob and Maakah were by themselves in the open country.”

That’s the first section of this chapter. We see things spiral out of control, all because of an insult, and a refusal to make peace and work things out.

That happens a lot in warfare. It’s because of a misunderstanding, or a problem that could’ve been worked out in another way. It’s often the same in friendships and family problems, it was a simple misunderstanding and it got way out of control and became a major dispute.

Always then remember the proverb: Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

A soft gracious word might prevent a disaster. Or a harsh word can stir up a controversy. Hold that anger back, and stay calm, it will be a blessing in the end.

So the battle lines are forged: Joab is leading David’s army. In verses 9-12:

9 Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. 10 He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. 11 Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. 12 Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”

Another portion of scripture says two are better than one, for one can support the other if they are in trouble.

As it says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

Sometimes I like to go things alone, sometimes I’m a bit of a loner, but it would be wise for me to remember that two are better than one, and in a multitude of counselors and advisors, victory will come. It’s good to get advice, and seek counsel from people who are wise.

Joab then advances on the enemy. In verses 13-14 it says, “13 Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him. 14 When the Ammonites realized that the Arameans were fleeing, they fled before Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.”

The enemy regroups and moves to a new area in verses 15-16. It says, “15 After the Arameans saw that they had been routed by Israel, they regrouped. 16 Hadadezer had Arameans brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam, with Shobak the commander of Hadadezer’s army leading them.”

So What does David do? He gathered his entire army, and marches out against them, time to end this once and for all.

From Proverbs 10:23-24 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
but a person of understanding delights in wisdom. What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted.”

17 When David was told of this, he gathered all Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam. The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him. 18 But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobak the commander of their army, and he died there. 19 When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them. So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.”

All of this causes the defeat of both the Arameans, the ammonites, and the remnants of Hadadezer’s troops as well.

God works this whole controversy out to bless King David and Israel, to grant them victory over these 3 enemy nations surrounding Israel.

From Proverb 10:29-30, "The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil. The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land."

In conclusion, reflect on this:

Proverbs 28:26 ESV “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

We all have ideas and schemes that pop into our heads. Most people just do what they think of, and it doesn't often work. But to walk in wisdom means denying one's own thoughts and ideas, and embracing a new way, the way of wisdom, and we take what the Bible says, and make it our new pattern of decision-making. That takes careful study, over days, weeks, months, and years. But slowly, over time, a tree of wisdom forms in our minds, with many branches full of different types of wisdom for different situations, and we access those nuggets on those branches as we need them, and the wisdom of the word never leads us astray. Cultivate that tree of wisdom in your mind, water it, fertilize it, and it will serve you well, neglect it, and you may yet find yourself wearing the label of "fool." 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

The Way of the Messiah: Deny Yourself, Take up your Cross, and Follow Me

Have you ever seen a star being born? Here we see a picture from the James Webb Space Telescope, of just such an event. From the STSI: “NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is celebrating the first anniversary of its start of science operations with this image of a star-forming region in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.

Its proximity to Earth at 390 light-years allows Webb to capture it in exquisite detail. Reddish jets bursting from young stars light up molecular hydrogen where they impact interstellar gas. A slightly older and more massive star, S1, is blasting out ultraviolet radiation and carving out a glowing cave in the lower portion of the image.”

The birth of a star, the beginning of a burning light in the heavens, maybe that’s a bit like what happens when a dead sinner lost in their evil ways turn toward Christ and cries out for salvation, for hope, and for a new life. That person at that moment is transformed, from a being of darkness and sorrow, to a being of light, hope, and victory. They are born a second time of the Holy Spirit. They begin a whole new life. They burst to life into great brightness and begin a lifelong journey of glowing ever more brightly with the power of God within.

It's an amazing thing.

We’re going to be looking at four sections of scripture today from Mark chapter 8, and I think we’re going to see the centerpiece of Mark’s gospel, the halfway point, the key moment when the question is answered: “Who is Jesus, really?”

Mark is sixteen chapters, and at chapter eight we find the middle point, the moment that depicts the entire point. It answers the question, "What is this really all about?"

All the healings, the miracles, the masses of crowds, the parables, the angry people, the disciples, what does it all mean?

So today, four sections, the first section is a healing that takes place of a blind man. And I think you'll see it fits right into the concept of spiritual blindness and seeing the truth. 

It says this, verses 22-26: They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

On it’s face, you have a recorded event in history, when Jesus healed a blind man who was then able to see from that day onward. I can’t imagine what a moment that must be in someone’s life, to go from blind to being able to see.

But on a deeper level, this is a moment that is reminding all of us, and those reading the gospel of Mark throughout history, that without Christ we are blind. As humans in our sin, we are blind.

There was a time in my life when I had no interest in knowing God. And slowly but surely as people prayed for me, and I began to encounter the message, slowly but surely I began to grope in the dark toward God.

“Can you see anything?” Jesus asked the man.

What about you? Can you see anything? Do you see who Jesus really is? Do you see God in each moment of your life? When you look around you do you see a world made by God? A universe designed by God? And people made in God’s image, with great value?

Or are you still blind? Or perhaps you’re like the blind man, at first he only sees a blurry picture. Some of us as we begin to approach God, or even after, at first, we only see a blurry picture, but as we draw nearer it becomes more and more clear.

Next, we see a conversation that takes place between Jesus and his disciples.

In verses 27-30: Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.”

Peter is Jesus’ right hand man, the first guy he trusts and the one he appoints to lead his disciples later.

And in this moment, the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter who Jesus really is. And we get the grand answer to the question, who Jesus is: He is the Messiah.

He is not a mere man, or a prophet, or some sort of special person, or a gifted healer, or a wise teacher, no, more than that, much more than that, he is the Jewish messiah. 

Jesus has been keeping it quiet, not telling anyone, because his mission is a very particular one, his mission is to die. Astonishing mission, a mission of death. A mission, not for his own sake, but a mission to give life to billions who are lost.

Just like Peter's declaration, we as well can only by the Holy Spirit say, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Only by God can we know and believe that Jesus is our messiah. Only by God’s wisdom. We can’t come to that on our own.

I remember reading the bible many, many times in my life. I never understood it. It took years. And through much prayer, and learning, growth, people praying for me, I began to understand.

Next, Jesus elaborates on what his mission is, as the messiah. They believe he must be here to overthrow the Roman empire, but instead, his mission is very different than what they might expect.

The messiah has come not to deal with the enemies of Israel, or to make us happy, or to take control of the Earth, but instead to deal with our sins.

In verses 31-33 it says, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Peter goes from recognizing Jesus as the messiah, to rebuking Jesus for the idea that he would die. And Jesus rebukes him instead and says, “Get behind me Satan!”

How easy it is to go from walking in the Spirit to walking in the flesh! How easy it is to let our own wants get in the way of what God is doing. How easy it is for us to corrupt what God is saying because we want what we want. Or we can’t accept what God is really saying, because maybe it seems too hard.

Jesus explains the way for him as the messiah is the suffering servant. Peter can't fathom the idea of a messiah who is rejected, suffers, and dies. 

Next, Jesus explains what that means for us as Christians. You could call this the way of following the suffering servant. How do we do that? 

It says this, verses 34-38: "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Lets break this last statement by the Lord Jesus into four subsections.

First point is self denial. You must deny yourself, your own ways, your own viewpoints, your own perspectives, your own opinions, your own emotions, your own plans, and put them under the control of the living Lord Jesus Christ, today, right now. Begin to live your life being guided in prayer and bible reading by God every day.

That is a huge shift in how we live. We go from chasing what we want, to chasing after what God wants for us.

That takes denying ourselves, denying what we want, and saying no to that selfish voice in our heads saying "me me me." And instead we turn to Jesus, and Jesus guides us through life.

That is not just some vague spiritual truth, it’s practical, for everyday use.

Second point, if your goal is to save your own life, that’s not going to work, instead, make your goal to lose your life for the sake of the gospel, and you’ll find your life that way.

Lose yourself in the work of serving Christ and serving others. Lose your own ideas, perspectives, your own conceptions of life, your own opinions, your own emotions, your own plans and purposes, and lose yourself in embracing the words of the Bible, the way of Christ, and paradoxically, through losing your life as it is right now, and throwing yourself into a whole new path, the path of Christ, jumping in, all the way, you’ll actually find your life that way. But if you chase your own hopes, your own dreams, your own goals, your own plans, you will then lose everything.

It’s a paradox.

Number three, verse 36 is Jesus making a plain statement of fact, because Jesus knows what he just said is challenging, it’s a difficult, it’s a total shift from how we used to think, and he says, here's the point, even if you chase after your own desires, and get super rich, and get everything you’ve ever wanted, romance, travel, knowledge, money, power, influence over people, all of it, what does it matter in the end, if after you die, you lose your soul, because you lived for selfish desires? You’ll lose it all anyway in the end. So it’s logical to say, well, my soul is on the line, so it’s logical to give myself completely over to Jesus, because there is no other way. Any other path leads to destruction.

If I chase my own wants, in the end I’ll lose everything, so why not totally abandon yourself to the path of Christ?

Then in verse 38 Jesus also reminds us, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.””

Jesus says don’t try to hide the hard way of the cross. Don’t be ashamed of my words. Don’t try to sugar coat it with easy-believism, oh just believe in God and then you’re fine. No, understand, that we must give up our own way, turn and pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

The last statement here is a reminder to be bold with the word of Christ, don’t hide it, don’t be ashamed of the way of a suffering servant, which we’re called to as Christians. They were expecting a military leader, a king to rule the Earth, but instead they discover a way of service, of humility, of love. Don’t be ashamed of it, but proclaim it loudly, and Christ will proclaim us before the holy angels, but if we’re ashamed of it and Christ and hide it, then Christ too will be ashamed of us in the presence of God in heaven after we die.

Lastly, I do want to include Mark 9:1, for some reason this last statement by Jesus is placed in chapter 9, which I don’t understand why the editors would do that. It seems to me it belongs with the statements Jesus had just made.

It says this: “And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”–Mark 9:1

Jesus may have been referring to John who would many years later see a vision of the coming of the kingdom of God recorded in the book of Revelation.

But for us today, I think it’s a reminder that if we earnestly seek after God, really want to know who God is, then we will come to an understanding of who Jesus Christ is to us, and how to follow Him successfully in our lives.

Believe, seek God, and God will reveal himself to you. He will give you salvation through Jesus Christ. He will be your Father in heaven. He will place the Holy Spirit within you, to guide you through the trials and difficulties of the Christian life.

And you will live a life where you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. You’ll live as a servant of God, with great love, and find victory after death.

The goal then, in the end, is to enter the new city of the messiah, where the messiah will reign as King. The goal is to shine in the afterlife, like that star we saw born in the photograph from the telescope. The righteous, the word says, will shine brightly forever in the city of God. A new city, a new reality, a future beyond what we could imagine. A next phase. A new adventure.

But in this life it takes total self denial, total devotion to Christ, denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus.

Then we receive our reward in the city, to glow with the glory of God, as the next adventure begins, in the New Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

David cares for Mephibosheth the Son of Jonathan

Have you ever lost a dear friend, and then thought back to the fond memories you had of them over the years? You think back to the good times. The times you spent fishing, the family get togethers, the times out on the town, and you miss them. And you think to yourself, how could I do something special for that person today? Many of us have lost friends over the years.

King David also lost a dear friend many years ago. His name was Jonathan, he was one of the sons of his adversary Saul. And in 2nd Samuel 9 we see David thinking about Jonathan, and all he meant to him.

In 2nd Samuel 8, King David had gone on a sweeping military campaign in which he conquered and subdued five enemy nations that surround Israel, to the point that these nations are for the time being no longer a threat to Israel at all.

In fact it had been a rather brutal campaign, in which enemies were crushed and nations toppled.

But now the energy of those battles dies down, things go quiet in the kingdom for a moment, and David begins thinking about Jonathan his old friend.

I remember I had a friend a long time ago that I loved very dearly. His name was Greg. We used to talk all the time on AOL instant messenger. This was back in the glory days of the internet. His username was TheSecession, and my username was Revolutioninabox.

Today he actually makes electronic music for movie trailers in California. And I’m a pastor in Michigan.

We would hang out a great deal when we were in our twenties. I think he was just using me for my car, but I still cared about him a great deal. We used to make music together. We would go on adventure around town. We’d look for beauty around the city and find those places and sit and talk and enjoy nature.

But over the years we lost touch and moved on and you wonder what ever happened to that person anyway.

But David had lost Jonathan, he had died.

In 2 Samuel 9:1 it says, “David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?””

Point number one today is, find ways to show kindness to people around you.

Most people struggle through life. They live lives of quiet desperation. They live lives of fear. So find ways to show kindness to people around you. Just like David, who looks for opportunity to show kindness to one of Jonathan’s descendants.

Someone who worked for Jonathan in the past is still around in David’s court. So they find him.

It says in verses 2-3: Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Point number two, notice what David says in verse 3, notice that David says he wants to show “God’s kindness.” Because it’s not really just David who is showing kindness here. It’s more deeply, God who is using David to show kindness to this person.

God will use you from time to time to show kindness to someone who is having a bad day. Be sure to be open to what God is doing. Slow down your day and realize someone might need your encouragement in the room you’re standing in.

In verses 3-5: Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

4 “Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.”

The name of this son of Jonathan was Mephibosheth. Add that one to your baby name list.

But in any case he was briefly mentioned in 2nd Samuel 4:4 “(Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)”

Mephibosheth had bad feet ever since this incident when he was five years. He’s been sort of an outcast in hiding. The nurse wanted to protect him from David after Saul and Jonathan had died in battle, but instead she dropped him and caused this disability.

For years now Mephibosheth has been cared for in a small town far north of Jerusalem in the city of Lo Debar.

Now King David calls for him and brings him into the center of the kingdom, Jerusalem, the capital, in the courtroom of the king himself.

Mephibosheth is brought into the king’s courtroom and bows down. It says in verse 6-7:

6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Point number three, I think we get a picture of Christ-like love in this portion of scripture.

We get a picture of the gospel right here.

We each as human beings were born as part of the line of Adam, the first man, who rebelled against his maker when he was deceived by the serpent. And so we all have been born as rebels against God.

Similarly, Mephibosheth is part of a house, a family that was an enemy of the true king, king David and his family.

Yet Mephibosheth is brought into the king’s court and invited to sit at the king’s table.

Similarly each of us, when we received Jesus Christ as our savior, we were brought back into the family of God, though we were enemies, and our sins were forgiven, and we were invited to sit at the king Jesus’s table with him, and we even received an inheritance in the new kingdom to come, the New Jerusalem. Similarly, Mephibosheth receives all the land that used to belong to his descendant Saul.

Think of yourself as Mephibosheth. Broken. Disabled. In hiding. Part of a defeated family. Left alone with little. But, David invites him in, to sit at his table and eat with him, and to be cared for by him. Similarly, that is what God does through Christ Jesus our savior.

Our sins deserved punishment. I mean serious punishment. Sin is the scrouge of our planet. It destroys everything.

It reminds me of an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. There were multiple star trek series, next generation, voyager, but Deep Space Nine was pretty raw and intense.

There was this powerful empire called the Dominion in deep space nine. And I recall an episode where one of the soldiers of the dominion had done something bad, started a fight with someone again, and he goes to his boss soldier and says, “I disobeyed you, I deserve punishment.” And His boss says, “and you shall have it” and he kills him right there.

Many of us have disobeyed God so completely, in every possible way, that God would be well within his rights to take us out right now. And yet, grace.

God finds us and we know we deserve punishment. But God forgives us through Jesus Christ.

For Mephibosheth, here is how he responds to David’s welcome:

8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Mephibosheth is so lowly, so meek, so humble, he regards himself as nothing more than a dead dog. He saw himself as essentially already dead and lost. But David gives him a second chance at a life of meaning. A life of being in the court of the king.

Next in verses 9-11: Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.”

David also provides Mephibosheth with workers for the fields and servants to care for him. He has land, and title, and servants under him to provide for his needs and to care for his land.

Point number four, God will provide for your needs. God always does.

Then in verses 12-13: Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.”

Lastly, point number five, Mephibosheth becomes an important man, seated at the kings table, like a son of the king himself, much like God does for us to adopt us as His children, he becomes our father.

And Mephibosheth even has a son himself, and in that way he continues on the name of the house of Saul and Jonathan. Despite the fact that he was lame in both feet, his story continued. Let that be a reminder to anyone with a disability and health issue, your story isn’t over with God, it’s only just begun. He takes in the broken and cares for their needs.

That’s who our God is.

In Review, the main points today are as follows:
  1. Find ways to show compassion to the hurting
  2. God's compassion will flow through you to others
  3. The gospel is found in David's mercy to Mephibosheth
  4. God will provide for your needs (even in dire circumstances)
  5. God adopts us into his family and we call Him 'Father'

Jesus provides Food for the 4,000: The Response of the Crowds, Pharisees, and Disciples

“Oh why didn’t I listen!?" The rich man cries out from the depths of hell, to this very day in 2023. He needed salvation dearly but could not see it. And he looked and saw Lazarus, comforted, in paradise. The rich man in sorrows, why didn’t he listen? He was rich, he was powerful, he did not have ears to hear of the savior, and so he remains where he is to this day. He said in the parable, send someone to preach to my family, but the Lord said, they already have the prophets, Moses, and the testimony of scripture. But if someone comes back from the dead, surely they’d believe then, right? But billions today don’t believe, though one did rise from the dead, Jesus Christ.

Today we look at Mark chapter 8, the feeding of the four thousand.

And I think we’ll see today, the time to trust Jesus humbly has come for all of us, lest we make the same mistake as the Pharisees, Herod, and the rich man from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

In Mark 8, Jesus has gathered crowds again who are following him and listening to him explain how the kingdom of God works.

These crowds have followed Jesus for three days. They’ve gathered and followed him, listening to him teach all day. Then they’d go to sleep, wake up the next day, and follow Jesus as he taught for another day, then another day. And it’s been three days.

Jesus is grateful for their dedication to follow him. There are four thousand of them following and listening. He has compassion on them, and wants to help them.

In Mark 8:1-3 it says, “During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

Jesus has compassion on them.

These four thousand people have probably been eating what little they had with them when they began following Jesus, which probably wasn’t much. They may have found sources of water along the way. But they’re now in a predicament, they’re too far out from sources of food, but they’re all very hungry.

It’s no doubt to me that Jesus set up this scenario to build their faith. They had to follow Jesus and trust that he would provide for their needs even if they brought nothing with them.

Now it’s come to the point where Jesus will now provide. We often must wait in faith, and then comes the moment when Jesus provides.

So Jesus tests his disciples also by asking them, what should we do?

Let’s see how his disciples responded.

In verses 4-5: 4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

The disciples have something to bring to the table. They have seven loaves of bread. They had some fish as well, we’ll find out in a moment.

We all have something we bring to the table. That is our gifting, our abilities, our zeal for the Lord. We apply it in a given situation. And then, God multiplies it, to produce much more than we’d expect.

Let’s see what Jesus does next, in verses 6-10: "He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha."

Just like when Jesus fed the 5,000 this time again, he multiplies the loaves and the fishes, by God’s power, to produce enough food for every person there to eat their fill.

The people were satisfied by their savior. He provided for their need. They were filled. So we also long to be filled. We serve Jesus and through the struggles of live we get exhausted and we need to be recharged. Then God comes and provides the refreshing we need. He refreshes me again and again and again in my life. Come to Him, and in His time, he will refresh you in the journey of life.

He said in Psalm 23, "I will lead you beside still waters." And in Psalm 1:3, "That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers."

After everyone is done eating, the disciples gather seven baskets full of broken pieces left over from what everyone had ate.

He sent the crowds away, now safe to travel home after eating, and he traveled again to a different region. Jesus was always on the move, teaching and speaking the message to people in the area.

Jesus enters this new region after traveling by boat, and he encounters some of the religious leaders in the area, and they begin to question Jesus.

It says in verses 11-13: "The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.”

Don’t always expect a sign from God. God does give signs from time to time. Jesus did many miraculous works in his life. These were signs of who he was. And sometimes in our own life God will give us signs, nudges, in the right direction, to let us know His will for our lives. But many other times he will simply tell us to trust Him and follow His lead day by day.

Jesus immediately again leaves this area, and heads to another.

Then in verses 14-16 it says, “The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

What does bread do when it has yeast in it? The bread rises. It becomes puffed up.

The pharisees and king herod had something in common, they were puffed up. They were proud. Power and influence had made them prideful. Many of the pharisees were so focused on their own power and influence, their own selfish ambitions, that they saw Jesus as a threat, and they missed the savior of the world because of it.

Jesus says, beware! Be very cautious. Even in ministry for me, it’s very common to be drawn to the idea of wanting to promote yourself. It’s easy to put your career before the message, your desire for promotion. Your desire to show how brilliant you are. It’s very dangerous. Pretty soon the message of the gospel becomes secondary to our own selfish ambitions and pride. I’ve seen it so many times, and it’s dangerous.

Jesus says beware. If you’ve been drawn in by selfish ambition to climb your own way, and make yourself great, repent in dust and ashes, cry out to Jesus for mercy and he will forgive you pride, and humble you, and have mercy on you.

Those who are caught in the sin of selfish ambition will not see the kingdom of God, let no one deceive you. It is a deadly sin.

Pride is what caused angels to fall. Pride is a deadly danger. It led the pharisees to reject Jesus, as the crowds followed him, trusted him for all they needed, the pharisees were fearful, arrogant, angry, and demanded signs from Jesus.

Pride is so deadly because it makes us unable to listen. We can’t hear anything. We won’t listen to anyone. Thankfully God will humble us when we become prideful. That’s never fun though.

Don’t be like the puffy bread, like the pharisees, puffed up with pride, but instead be like the flatbread, close to the ground, aware of your nature as a servant of Christ, and follow Him humbly. If you can get that lesson, to stay humble, deeply humble, as a servant of Jesus, you are very close to the kingdom of God, I believe. Humility is vital to the kingdom of god system.

Herod had wanted a sign from Jesus, but Jesus had already done so many miracles. The pharisees wanted a sign from Jesus, but Jesus had already so many miracles. It was clear and plain who Jesus was, for anyone who could humbly examine it. But, to demand a sign was a rejection of all Jesus had done.

It kind of reminds me of when a couple has an argument, and she says give me one example, and he gives her an example, then he or she demandes another example, and she demands another, well he can’t think of a third, so it’s never quite enough.

I was at middle school camp last week, and I had offered the children to ask questions. Many of the students would ask good questions and I would try to answer. But, there were some children who were looking to have fun with me, so they would ask one question, then another question, then another, and you could tell by the look on their face, they didn’t really want an answer, they were just trying to stump me, to make their friends laugh. So I finally said to one of them, you don’t really want an answer, so I’m not going to answer you. That kind of reminds me of this situation with the pharisees.

In any case, the disciples don’t seem to get the point. They instead are asking about bread. They wonder if Jesus is noticing that they didn’t bring enough bread.

Here is how Jesus responds to them: (verses 17-19) 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

This portion of scripture ends off with this open-ended question: Don’t you understand?

Even after everything, don’t you understand? Can’t you see the plain truth? Jesus is the messiah, the king of the universe. He can make food appear out of thin air. Jesus tells his disciples, you saw it happen twice now, where I made all this food appear, through God, and you still don’t understand?

Do you have ears but they don’t hear? Do you have eyes but they don’t see?

For many in this world, you could explain the gospel in the clearest form, you could have Billy Graham explain it to them himself, for hours, and they wouldn’t quite be able to get it. Their minds are focused on earthly things, not on the eternal truths of God.

Even for Jesus disciples, people He chose, they still struggle to understand. But we know over time they would come to understand and believe, and really trust that Jesus was their Lord and God on Earth. Praise the Lord.

We can talk about his disciples or the Pharisees, or Herod, or people today, but let’s get right to the point: What about you? Do you understand? Do you finally get it? Do you know and believe and trust that Jesus Christ is the messiah, the Lord, the King of the universe? Do you see beyond the physical, to these spiritual truths we discuss each week? Have you applied them to your life? 

Do you now live seeing the world through spiritual eyes? Do you see not just humans, but souls who need Christ before they die? Or are your eyes still blind? Do you really see what’s going on in the world around you?

Do you see a spiritual war taking place between good and evil? Do you see angels and demons in the unseen realms? Do you see souls struggling in darkness? Do you see reborn blood washed saints spreading the truth? Do you see heaven and hell beyond the grave? Do you see life beyond death?

That is the question and the challenge I leave you with today. See the truth. Believe the truth. Take the truth as your own. Apply it your life. And wear the truth as your armor. See the world through the eye glasses of the spiritual truths of God, and you will see truth and live truth and be truth in your life. Amen.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

King David achieves victory over Five Surrounding Nations

God has brought David from shepherding sheep as a boy, to shepherding a nation, as king of Israel. He’s spoken to David through the prophet, promising to be with him. David answered with praise, saying, "Who am I that you should do such great things for me?" 

But a problem remains, the nation of Israel remains surrounded by enemy kingdoms. To the west are the Philistines. To the south is Edom. To the east you have Ammon, Moab, and the Arameans.

That is a lot of enemy nations to deal with. But God has blessed Israel, and has given the Jews this land to call their own. So now David must fight against these enemy nations that constantly attack and raid their lands. King Saul had often fought with these nations, particularly the Philistines, but did not succeed in defeating them. In fact, Saul eventually died in battle with the Philistines.

In 2nd Samuel chapter eight we see a grand campaign in which David conquers these nations one by one.

This reminds me of what it means to be a new Christian.

Do you remember when you first became a Christian? I do. It was about 11 years ago. I found myself a new person, but in the midst of a wasteland of my own making, there was much destruction surrounding me. There was post-traumatic stress, there were dark memories, there were sins that I still needed to be freed from. There were broken relationships with family members. 

It seemed almost post-apocalyptic in nature.

And immediately after I became a Christian the battle began. The war began. It was time to go from battle to battle, repenting of past sins, quitting smoking, finding recovery, reconciling with parents and grandparents, paying off piled up debts, finishing my education, finding work, overcoming lust and lying and stealing and other issues that I faced.

But, with God with me, with the Spirit living within me, with Jesus Christ as my savior, the battles could all be won. And we see David as well, going from victory to hard fought victory.

It says in 2nd Samuel 8: "In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Metheg Ammah from the control of the Philistines."

That name “metheg ammah” has puzzled biblical scholars. But the believed meaning is “bridge of the mother city” which is a reference to Gath. If you recall Goliath was born in Gath. And Gath was believed to be the main capital city of the Philistines. So in essence, David conquered the capital city of the Philistines. That's total conquest.

Similarly, in our own lives, if we work on an issue in our lives, smoking, drinking, stealing, lying, manipulating, selfishness, masturbation, whatever it might be, it’s not enough to make some progress. Maybe drink a bit less, smoke a bit less, lie a little less. That’s not gonna deal with the problem. You’ve gotta go right to the root of the issue, and destroy it for good. Destroy it to the point that it never happens again. End of story. Total repentance. David took the capital, Gath, and had total victory.

Next David defeats the Moabites, a nation to the east of Israel, on the other side of the dead sea. Ruth, the mother of David’s grandfather was originally a Moabite, but left Moab to become part of an Israelite family. Despite this, Moab made constant war against Israel. And David intended to defeat them.

In verse 2 it says, “David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live. So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute.”

This was seen hundreds of years earlier by Balaam, who noted that a great leader would defeat Moab (Numbers 24:17).

There was also a great kingdom, Zobah, who seems to have controlled an area north of Israel during this time in history. David fought and defeated Hadadezer the king of Zobah as well.

It says in verses 3-4: “Moreover, David defeated Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when he went to restore his monument at the Euphrates River. David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.”

But Zobah had allies, the Arameans of Damascus. And they counter attacked to help protect Zobah. But they too were defeated.

It says in verses 5-6: "When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. 6 He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.”

So as a result of that situation, Zobah was conquered, and the Arameans were also conquered.

One phrase I want to point out to you: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.” David was a great warrior, but only because God made him one. David was only King because of God. And in the end David gained all these victories because God was with him. The Lord gave David victory.

Remember that in your own life: God is the one who gives victory.

Next we see in verses 7-12 David gathering all sorts of fine metals from these conquered nations and dedicating them to God. It’s possible that the metals were later used in the construction of the temple by Solomon.

It says in 7-12: “David took the gold shields that belonged to the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Tebah[c] and Berothai, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, King David took a great quantity of bronze.

9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer, 10 he sent his son Joram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze.

11 King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued: 12 Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. He also dedicated the plunder taken from Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah.”

Additionally, we see in verses 13-14 that David became famous because of his victory over the Edomites, and in particular a battle in the Valley of Salt. 

It says, “And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.”

Again we see total victory. We see David’s attention to detail. He fights these battles wit the purpose of not having to fight in the future. He sets up garrisons throughout Edom. That means he left troops behind in the major cities of that nation to make sure they never again fought against Israel.

The United States did something similar after World War II. They left troops in Japan, in Germany, in other nations to make sure that such wars never took place again in the future.

When you overcome a sin in your life and put it to death, make sure it stays dead. Take actions to keep it gone from your life. Sometimes it will try to sneak back in after a few years. Make sure you've left a garrison behind to keep it from coming back. Make sure the last battle was the final one, that it won’t ever be able to come back.

Lastly in chapter eight we get a listing of some of the leaders of Israel during this time.

It says in verses 15-18: “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. 16 Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 17 Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelek son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was secretary; 18 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were priests.”

It says King David did what was just and right for all his people, all the people in his care were blessed by his leadership. Joab was over the army, Jehoshaphat was historian, Zadok and Ahimelek were priests. And it even says that some of David’s sons were priests before God.

All around David is blessed. He gains victory over five enemy nations, he gathers supplies for the court and temple, and he has excellent leaders around him, even his own sons are serving as priests in the ministry.

So in review, the main points were as follows:

1. After we become a Christian, the real battle begins – defeating past sins, and healing from past hurts

2. Slow progress on an issue isn’t enough – gain total victory, like David when he took the capital of the Philistines.

3. God gave David victory – with you in your life, only God can give the final victory

4. When you overcome a sin make sure it stays gone – take actions and make plans to keep it under control forever

5. David did what was right and just – he was blessed – do what is right and you’ll be blessed (through difficulties)

A Syrian Phoenician Woman comes to Jesus for Help

How does the gospel of Mark all fit together? It’s all one cohesive message, to answer the question, who is Jesus really? It begins with John in the wilderness proclaiming the entry of the messiah into history.

We see God step into the picture at this point. Then, we see Jesus preaching a message of repentance and faith. He proclaims a new kingdom, the kingdom of God, a new way of living, a new system of society. We see numerous events where Jesus heals someone miraculously, or drives out a demon from someone.

Jesus also begins to teach in parables to the crowds, and confront of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders.

We see him doing things no mere human could do, he feed thousands of people by an act of will, he walks on water, he calms a storm by simply speaking to it. We see also that the response to Jesus is very mixed. He is being rejected by some, embraced by others, and it’s clear Jesus is not necessarily the messiah Israel was expecting.

Every event in the book of mark here is written to help us understand as non-jews, around the world, who Jesus is, and what his purpose was in coming. So again today, we’re going to get more answers about who Jesus is.

Last week we talked about Jesus discussion with the pharisees about hypocrisy and the heart. Today we see Jesus traveling north from where he was to Tyre. There he encounters a woman from Syria, a gentile.

In verses 24-26 it says, “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.”

Jesus ministry was centered for most of his ministry, in a small area called galilee in ancient Israel. He crossed into Samaria at points as well, and would eventually move his ministry to Jerusalem the capital city itself.

But Jesus ministry was to the Jewish people two thousand years ago. That was his target audience. Later, he would command his disciples to take the message to all the nations across the face of the earth. And so it came to be.

So it’s an interesting incident for this Phoenician woman to come and ask Jesus for help. She is a Greek, not a jew.

Jesus spoke to her, and then she replied. It went like this:

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Jesus gives what seems like a harsh response. But, Jesus was often blunt and clear about his purposes. He was sent during his life to the people of Israel. But she gives a clever response, in hopes that Jesus will help her.

Jesus is impressed with her response. In verses 29-30 it says:

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”

Jesus doesn’t even have to be in physical proximity to the child of the woman to remove the demon and set the child free.

Time, distance, space, matter, energy, these things are under the control of Jesus, through God the Father, as he sees fit to use it. He is able to, by acts of choice, to manipulate, time, space matter, and energy as he desires.

Can you do that? Can anyone do that? No. Only Jesus.

What does this incident tell us about Jesus? Well, his earthly ministry was originally to the nation of Israel, but, we get a sense here in this event, that Jesus ministry would extend to all the nations, Greeks, Romans, and even Americans today.

But in this passage, we see Jesus in another country, he’s in Phoenicia, he’s probably hiding out for a while in this house to try to let things cool off in Galilee, because word is spreading much too quickly.

God came first to Israel, more so, he founded Israel, through Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua. But eventually, the message of salvation would go out to the entire world.

Next, we see our second incident today, Jesus heads back down to the Decapolis, where he met the man who wandered in the tombs a few chapters back.

It says in verses 31-32: Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

So, we have a deaf and mute man, brought by some caring people to the feet of Jesus to seek help.

We should do the same. We should be people who bring our friends to the feet of Jesus. Who have you invited to church recently? Who have you invited to bible study recently? Or women’s group? Everyone needs Jesus. Every single person you know needs Jesus to wash away their sins, or they are going to spend eternity in hell. Never forget that. We should have an urgency to get them to Jesus, just like this man had friends who brought him to Jesus.

Do all you can to help people to know Christ. But do it by the Spirit’s leading. The Spirit will help you to share the message with others. Who can you invite to church? Who can you pray with? Who can you share scripture with? Who can you begin to mentor, meet with for coffee, and talk with about faith in Christ? That is our challenge.

Let’s see what happens next… verses 33-35, “33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”

So just a few verses earlier, we saw Jesus healing the little girl without even going to the little girl in person, now we see very physical contact with this man, touching the man’s tongue, putting his fingers in his ears. Spitting.

He looks up to heaven, then said to the man, “be opened!” and the man’s ears were opened and he was suddenly able to speak normally.

You know, there was another incident where Jesus met a roman guard, and the man said that Jesus didn’t even need to come in person, he could simply give the command and his son would be healed. And then it happened. It seems like gentiles have a faith that allows for distance to not be a factor. Or maybe it’s an indication that after Jesus is crucified, rises again, and then goes to heaven, afterward, Jesus will do much distance healing and salvation for people like you and me throughout our lives.

But while he was with the jews, he would lay hands on them, and heal them that way.

Have you asked for healing in your life? Ask for healing. Many of you have and God has said no, or not yet, so be it. But always pray for healing, for yourself, for others, because, the worst God can say is no. And he’s healed me in many ways. But the key is you have to ask. You have to come to him. If you don’t take that opportunity to bring it to Jesus, it’s a missed opportunity.

And yes, often Jesus doesn’t heal us in the moment. It’s something we’re meant to be dealing with in the moment. But always ask. Worst he can say is no!

Lastly, we see the chapter conclude in verses 36-37:

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus again tries to mitigate the spread of the message, so it doesn’t blow up too fast. But people can’t help but talk about what’s happening. It’s very exciting. The people are amazed.

As I was amazed when I got salvation. As we were all amazed when we began our journey as Christians. We were amazed.

As the crowds said, Jesus has done everything well. It’s hard to argue with what Jesus teaches and what he does. It’s all good and it’s all right and holy and pure and true. It’s perfect. It’s of God.

And again we find ourselves increasingly answering the question who is Jesus? He is God, perfect, true, full of love, strong in truth, righteous, full of justice, merciful, challenging the religious leaders, healing the sick, casting out demons, walking on water, opening the ears of the deaf, and it’s all right, and true, and good, and wonderful, and beyond this world.

It’s beyond us. And that’s how we know that it’s something special. It’s beyond us. It’s glorious and true and good. And we should all want to be part of what Jesus is doing, what he did, and what he is doing today in the world. God isn’t done yet. He’s at work in this world, leading people to salvation, through his hands and feet, the church.

1. In your mind, begin to see who Jesus Christ is to you the book of Mark (piece it together)

2. Jesus can do miracles, he can do anything in His will, believe anything is possible

3. Invite people to church, pray with the lost, share the gospel, spread the gospel

4. Believe and pray for God to heal you and others

5. Understand that Christ is perfect, he makes no mistakes

6. Get excited about faith in Christ, explore your faith outside of church on your own time

7. Believe that Jesus Christ is still at work in the world (through you)