Monthly Archives: April 2021

Saint Mark, Evangelist

saint-mark-1621Repent and Believe

The evangelist Mark was a traveling companion of Peter. He recorded Peter’s sermons and stories found in the Gospel of Mark. It is clear that Mark’s Gospel was written by a masterful storyteller. Though short, this Gospel has great impact and clarity. In the opening of his Gospel he gets right to the point:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (Mark 1:9-15)

Notice that Mark’s Gospel is an action Gospel. It moves quickly and it asks us to move along with it.

Mark was an evangelist who got right to the point. The Apostle Paul gives us a perspective on the importance of evangelism when he lists God’s gifts to the Church:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.   (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The evangelist follows the apostles and prophets in importance. Often times they are thought of as shallow or not very sophisticated. For Mark, the Gospel was simple: Repent and believe. That was the message of John the Baptist. That was the message of Jesus on the earth. It is the starting point for every Christian and should be the essential message of the Church. Too many of today’s “seeker” churches have forgotten the repentance part of the message.

Mark was willing to risk everything for the sake of telling the Gospel message. Ultimately, he paid the price with his life. What are we willing to risk today? Jesus told His disciples:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mark 16:15-20)

Are we prepared to join Mark? What will the Lord say about our feet?

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
    together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
    the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
    you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
    before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
    the salvation of our God.   (Isaiah 52:7-10)

We are living in the last days. Evangelism is of paramount importance. There is little time for frills. At the very least we can earnestly pray for the rescue of all lost souls. The rescue of souls was Mark’s ministry because it is the ministry of Jesus, then and now.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Good Shepherd

We are looking for leadership in America today. We are looking for good leadership. I believe this is true all over the world. What makes good leadership? Jesus described what that is:

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.   (Mark 10:42-44)

We have a few great leaders, but some of them are great in their own minds. They are not great for the people. We need leaders that care. We need shepherds that care for the flock. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.   (John 10:11-15)

There are leaders who are only working for the money. When tough issues arise they are no where to be found. They duck under the cover of lies, distortions, and propaganda. Then they blame others for the evil that they do.

Good leaders are always there for the people. They are comforters. They may challenge us, but they also reassure us that we can rely on them. They have our backs covered. King David wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:1-4)

Good leaders care about the welfare of the people. They sacrifice their own wants and desires in the interest of the welfare of others. In his First Epistle, John wrote about the ultimate leader:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us— and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?   (1 John 3:16-17)

Jesus went to the cross for us. Peter told the high-priestly family who forbid him to speak about Jesus:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

Jesus is a true leader. He is still the leader today for all who put their trust in him. He paid the price of our sins on the cross. And today he is looking for under-shepherds who truly care about his sheep. Are you one of them? Am I?

If so, we must be prepared to lay down our lives for others. We must demonstrate our love of Jesus by loving the way he loves. A leader without love is a follower of the lawless one. The lawless one leads his flock into devastation and destruction. He is the father of lies. He hides in the darkness. But his days are numbered. His deeds and those who follow him will be exposed.

For the sake of good government we must chose our leaders wisely. For eternal life we must choose the ultimate leader, the good shepherd, Jesus Christ the righteous Son of God. He, alone, is our Savior and Lord.

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Third Sunday of Easter

By Faith in His Name

Peter and John had performed a great miracle. At the gate of the Temple they healed a man who was lame from birth. Many people observed what they did, though it was not what they did. Reading from Acts:

Peter addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.   (Acts 3:12-16)

.The risen Lord was real to Peter and John. They knew he was still with them, even though he had ascended to the Father. This was not the case at first. Jesus had to reprimand them for their unbelief. Reading from Luke:

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.   (Luke 24:36-43)

The disciples saw Jesus first as a ghost and were frightened. Jesus had to prove to them that he had a body and was truly alive. He then opened their minds to understand what his death and resurrection meant:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.   ()

The disciples were taught directly by Jesus for three years but they did not fully grasp what his ministry was about. Now they understood who he was and is. Jesus had become more real to them than ever before. He was the same person they knew before, but now he was also the Lord of all. His name was above every name. His purpose was instilled in them. They learned the power and authority that they had in his name. When they did they could carry on his work on the earth with great confidence that they were standing in for him until he returned in glory.

:Peter could now boldly preach the Gospel of Christ: Again, reading from Acts:

“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”   ()

Jesus became real in the disciples, now apostles. They remembered that Jesus promised:

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.   (John 14:13)

Of course, there will always be opposition from the enemy. The bolder we become, the more he will try to stop us. The Jewish authorities forbid that the apostles speak about the name of Jesus anymore. Under threat of persecution, the apostles had a prayer meeting. They prayed, in part:

And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants[k] to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant[l] Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.   (Acts 3:29-31)

The age of the apostles is not over.. We, too, have been given power and authority in the name of Jesus. We were not there to see Jesus resurrected from the dead. We did not hear his great commission to preach the Gospel to all the world. But we have the testimony of men and women who gave their all because Jesus was so real to them. Is the risen Lord real to us? Has he become our cornerstone? Is he our foundation? Is he the head of our church. If so, leet us step out in boldness. The risen Lord is with us. He needs us to carry on the ministry in his name.

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Second Sunday of Easter

My Lord and My God

The discipleThomas is remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” That may be a little unfair to him. To be sure, he was a skeptic concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

No one had ever been raised from the dead before. Thomas was confused about the mission of Jesus. On the other hand, Thomas was a faithful disciple. He was willing to sacrifice for what he believed was the cause of Christ. As Jesus was speaking about going to Jerusalem, which proved to be his last trip there, Thomas was aware of the danger involved:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”   (John 11:16)

Following Jesus is not easy. Thomas faltered, but Thomas quickly recovered. Reading from John:

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   (John 20:26-29)

The ministry of the Apostle Thomas proved that he could go the distance with God’s help.

Thomas was not the only one who touched to risen Lord. Reading from 1 John:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.   (1 John 1:1-4)

The risen Lord was not a ghost. He was real. He was and is so real that the faith of the Early Church could not be shaken. Even though we did not see the resurrected Lord, we know by faith that disciples and many others did see him and interacted with him. because of their strong faith we believe. Jesus spoke of us:

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

The testimony of others helps establish the faith in new believers. What about our testimony? One definition of the word “testimony” is: firsthand authentication of a fact: EVIDENCE. Do our words and actions authenticate Jesus? Jesus has touched us. Have we touched Jesus? Are we in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ?

Thomas touched Jesus and said: My Lord and my God. what do we say about him each day? Thomas went forward with a powerful testimony. God is counting on us to do the same. Many people are waiting to believe our strong report.

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