Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mark 11

Mark 11
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king might enter with applause and fanfare. But he does not go to the Roman seat of power as if to protest their rule, nor does he threaten them in any way. He goes to the Temple and makes an inspection. If he is king then his kingdom is not temporal but spiritual, where the Temple and religion are central. It is late so he leaves to return the next day. On the next day he stakes his claim to the Temple. He purifies it of what he sees as filth and misuse of the Temple grounds. He stretches his hand out against it, as he did the fig tree and no one will eat of it again. This Temple is passing away, withering as the fig tree.

Prayer is not about cursing or blessing, but about asking with a clean heart. How hard is it to stand before God and ask when we have held back from others? Authority is a matter of perception and confession. Religious authority cannot accept nor deny Jesus because he does not fit their perceptions, as John did. They stand before Jesus, and God, in the Temple courts unable to confess the power of God which is present. They cannot pray with clean hearts. And this is just the beginning of their attempts to stand before Jesus and entrap him. But Jesus is in his element, his kingdom, and no one can stand against him.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mark 10:32-52

Mark 10:32- 52
Another hint at the end of the story and yet it goes by unnoticed by the disciples. When Jesus comes into his own, the disciples think it will be with power and they wish to share in that power. But Jesus makes it clear, again, that power is not authority to rule over others but humility as a servant to others. To follow Jesus and the way to the Kingdom of God means to walk willingly to one’s death as a servant to others in complete obedience to God. Jesus continues to serve others by healing them even when he knows the end is near. Walking the way means being attentive to the way and the destination. The final resting place gives meaning to the way but walking in it daily, with open eyes, takes one to the kingdom of God. The way leads to the kingdom which gives meaning to the way, but one only knows the way by walking in faith and compassion daily. And for Jesus that way leads to Jerusalem and the ultimate sacrifice. How has walking daily in compassion brought you rewards and also sacrifices?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mark 10:1-31

Mark 10:1-31
Jesus teaches: main theme is being open before God, not hard-hearted. Children serve as the prime example of being open and the rich the prime example of being hardhearted. Being soft-hearted or open to God means to live a life of harmony with others. Following religious or cultural forms but being hardhearted gets you no closer to the Kingdom of God then being evil. Following the rules or forms of religion does not gain you grace with God, unless it changes your heart to being open to God. Obedience to the way of the open heart leads to the great rewards but at great cost and effort. It comes naturally to children, the least of the population. The way of the open heart is the way to the Kingdom of God but it is not synonymous with obedience to religious tradition. Children will find new ways of solving old problems because they are open to the newness that is life and spirit.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mark 9:2-50

Mark 9:2-50
Another baptism event: Jesus is transfigured and God speaks. A monumental event that plays vivid with the imagination (and identity of Jesus) but which plays no role in the gospel. It is just an affirmation of what we have already seen. Neither the Disciples nor the author of Mark, make a big deal about what it means for Jesus, although he does seem to have an attitude shift. Jesus seems to be more impatient with the disciples, and others. It is as if he has been handed his marching orders and no one else seems to understand what that means. “Oh unbelieving generation,” “if you can?” Terms of frustration directed at other’s inability to make sense out of Jesus simple teachings.

And then Jesus explains his marching orders. He will be betrayed, killed and rise form the grave. The disciples, after seeing and hearing so much, still do not understand. Who they think Jesus is, the Greatest, is not who Jesus shows them he is, a servant healing others, teaching the truth of love and peace. And now he is going to his death. That kind of disconnect has to create a certain amount of friction and frustration. Students who are so preoccupied with their own perceptions and expectations cannot grasp the simple message of the teacher.

The disciples, who cannot cast out demons, act as religious leaders and forbid others from doing it. Jesus corrects them. Any in the name of Christ are all part of the same family, a house divided... But those who cause stumbling in the believer are not part of the family and need to be cast out. It is better to have an incomplete body then one that causes harm to it members. Peace is the hallmark of a united body and family.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mark 8:1-9:1

Mark 8:1-9:1
Right after Jesus feeds 4,000 with just a few loaves and fishes he is asked to give a sign. What could they have been looking for? Jesus has already feed thousands, healed dozens and cast out demons. When you do not believe, no amount of evidence will ever be enough. Even the Disciples still do not grasp the full truth. It is not about things here on this plane; Jesus has that covered. It is having eyes to see and ears to hear the things of God which brings truth.
To see, sometimes means to leave the village. How many conversations has Jesus had with people outside of the village, away from the city. Now he takes a blind man out to the countryside to help him to see. And this is right after he chastised the Disciples for not seeing.
Peter must have learned something because now he can see Jesus for who he is, the Christ. But Peter’s sight is still not clear. He needs Jesus to touch his eyes one more time to see things as they really are.
Jesus teaches the true way to the Kingdom of God. It is through compassion and love for others. But it must end at the cross. We must all take up the cross, forsake the world of men, the religious traditions, and the expectations of others. We must live the life of the cross, which is sacrifice for love and compassion.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mark 7

Mark 7
Traditions often become more important than a right understanding of God. And tradition can be used as an authority to control others. What makes you right is how you act and what you say, not what traditions may define or dictate. If compassion and goodness come out in you words and actions, as they do with Jesus, then you are clean before God regardless of what the religious leaders of the day may say. Action reveals the heart; a pure heart does pure actions, an unclean heart betrays evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. That is quite a list! There is not a list of goodness because it is a condition of the heart depending upon the circumstances. Goodness knows how to act and does not need a laundry list to check against. That is the failure of religion trying to contain a clean heart with traditional ways to act in goodness. Goodness always finds a fresh way to act, through the spirit with newness of life.

Even outsiders, gentiles and Greeks, see the truth and power of Jesus. An open tongue is to speak plainly; an open ear is to hear the truth. Those who gather to Jesus cannot but help to share the openness of who he is which draws more people to him. But the religious leaders stay “closed” to Jesus. They cannot hear or see except what they want to because, although they act according to tradition, they do not understand the truth. To be open is to live with God in a life moving towards the Kingdom of God, which it truth and peace.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mark 6

Mark 6
Familiarity leads to doubt. Others cannot accept you if they think they know you. Knowledge stunts faith in that faith must move beyond what one knows to a new understanding. Jesus amazes his hometown and yet they cannot move in faith to accept him.
Jesus sends out the Twelve, and yet they hardly have faith and understanding in Jesus. As they are sent they are told to have total faith in God’s ability to provide. Which is funny because when they return they do not have faith in God’s ability to feed 5,000. In the midst of the story of Disciples’ faith we find John and Herod. Jesus, in fame, has surpassed John and Herod takes note. There must be more to the John/Herod story but we do not hear it. With the downfall of John and with Jesus’ rise in fame we get a hint that a conflict will happen.

A timeline of events will help to make clear a number of themes that are happening concerning faith in this chapter.
1. Jesus sends out the Twelve
2. They return thrilled at their experiences but exhausted.
3. Immediately they go with Jesus to rest in a quiet place, but crowds follow.
4. Jesus orders the Disciples to feed the 5,000
5. Jesus orders the Disciples to shepherd the 5,000 into manageable sized groups.
6. The crowd eats with abundance.
7. Immediately Jesus sends the 12 away in a boat, while he goes to pray.
8. The 12 struggle against the wind all night, Jesus appears walking on water.

What happened to the Disciples’ thrill about the power when they were sent out? Did exhaustion overtake them? Why did Jesus push them so hard when he knew they were on the edge?
Faith is hard to hold on to when exhausted. Grudging obedience creates hard hearts that are not open to the thrill of faith and the power one has in faith. Rest is important to faith, but rest often does not come when it is needed. The thrill of faith in one moment can turn to bitter griping the next when life throws wind and demanding crowds into your way. Were the Disciples expecting a pat on the back for their service in the field? They certainly wanted time alone with Jesus but instead they got another day of heavy service followed by a night of hard work. Often the work seems to have no end and one feels obligated to trudge on in obedience. That mindset only gets you to a point of pulling against the wind all night long, instead of walking on water in faith. Spend time in prayer, even in the midst of work. Faith is work expressed in true power. But that faith only comes through trusting in God to provide, for the journey, for the meal, for the crowds, for the way across the lake at night.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mark 5

Mark 5
Jesus’ compassion even extends to the demons in the demon possessed man. He should have banished them, but Jesus shows mercy to them. And the man, healed, becomes the symbol of the gospel message to the people in the area. Here the demons beg Jesus to stay, and the people beg Jesus to leave. Fear rules both the people and the demons. But in the midst is the man, calmed, the message of health and peace that Jesus brings everywhere.

That message is beginning to reach into the religious structure of the day. A Synagogue ruler responds with faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. And in the midst of Jarius’ story of faith, another story occurs. Here a woman of faith is healed. Although it serves as a comma to create a pause to ponder faith, really it serves as an exclamation point about how it is faith that brings healing, not Jesus. Jesus merely blesses the event that has already happened. But holding to faith in the midst of fear, doubt or dismay is hard. Especially when friends or family tell you otherwise. But healing only comes through faith. Jesus is already willing to show mercy on any and all who come asking for it. Jesus confirms the faith that is already present. “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

At this point we could have a spirited debate about faith healing, and if faith is a works, if faith starts with the believer, if healing that does not happen is because of a lack of faith... and the list on faith could be endless. But all that discourse, although it might (or might not) be edifying and thought provoking, misses the point. Jesus heals, and healing is available through faith. But Jesus is not a faith healer. Jesus came with a message, as a pointer, towards repentance and the Kingdom of God. Healing comes when one walks in Jesus footsteps towards the Kingdom of God. That kind of healing only comes to those with open hearts, eyes and ears to see and hear and respond to Jesus. In the next few chapter this will be made clearer. Jesus is heading towards confrontation, one that will define what it truly means to live a repentant life with eyes on the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mark 4:35-41

Mark 4:35-41
Jesus not only teaches about nature, but has control over nature. Certainly his rebuke of the Disciples could be taken that they should have had enough faith to rebuke the storm as well. Or it could read that they should have had faith to know that no harm would be fall them. Here the Disciples have seen miracles and received teachings where all things were revealed, and yet they feared a storm.

It is easy to lack faith in the midst of life’s storms, often when we need it the most we find it hardest to hold. If the storm is not calmed, at least we can know we will make it through safely. There are no secrets to having faith in the times of crisis, either you do or you don’t. But even though they were chastised for it, the Disciples did the right thing by turning to Jesus when they lacked the faith to fight on. Knowing the limits to one’s faith, and abilities, is a very sound self- knowledge. The boat was packed with knowing and able fishermen. Running a boat was not past their abilities, but the storm was. When they reached the end of their skills they needed to rely on faith. But that is hard to do when life circumstances are over whelming.