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Archive for June 2010

Blue in the Face?

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Just come across this one online. Compassion do great work, and now have opened the opportunity to sponsor a child up to youth.
Love it?
Let me know…
http://www.blueintheface.org.uk/

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Written by two5two

June 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Blog / Reblog

Mark 2

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Where we left off, Jesus has just gone off into the desert. We can see from the other synoptic gospels how that turned out. Mark doesn’t go into too much detail – don’t worry; as we go through Mark’s gospel, you’ll certainly get used to that! There is almost a degree of accepted understanding in the way that Mark writes the gospel. Like when he brings up a story, his readers already know that story. He only dedicates two verses to Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This does not indicate that it is not important; if it weren’t important he wouldn’t mention it at all! We all know how it pans out for Jesus during those forty days in the wilderness because we are familiar with the story from the other gospels. Mark was writing for people similarly in the know, so he doesn’t need to insert any detail; this makes what detail he does go into very important. (I hope you’re following my logic so far! :))

If Mark’s readers know the story, whatever Mark points out in the story to them is done for a good reason. In what he says, he highlights that temptation is from Satan, that he lived with wild animals, and that he was ministered to (and supported by) angels (all from verse 13). I’m not going to insult your intelligence by commenting on Jesus’ temptation being from the devil, or the fact that if Jesus can be ministered to by angels of the spiritual realms then we can so much more expect God to send all the spiritual protection we need if we ask Him for it. I’m simply going to direct you to the amazing Hebrews 2: 5-18 to let you draw your own conclusions. But I’m interested in this: Mark doesn’t give us much detail, but he’s the only gospel writer to mention Jesus with the wild animals. Why? Read this, I dare you to make it to page 22. Or come up with your own reasons and leave a comment on the blog!

Anyway anyway; we’ve got through two verses from the last study so far, so let’s get cracking.

vv14-15

Mark gives reference to John (the Baptist)’s arrest. This gives us a point in time for the following stuff, but also shows us how unpopular his message of repentance was. Jesus was preaching the same message about the Kingdom of God. Much like today, this message was not met favourably by many – and when you understand the story of John the Baptist’s arrest, you’ll understand that it was a dangerous thing to preach this message, and to associate yourself with the ‘Kingdom of God’ teaching. These facts that are laid out here make what follows all the more incredible.

vv16-20 

Mark explains that Simon and Andrew cast a net into the sea as they were fishermen. It escapes me what they would have been doing other than trying to catch fish, but it explains the hilarious pun which comes up. Jokes, in my experience, are never that good if they need explanation. However, this is a very funny joke. “I will make you fishers… of men!” I think ancient Hebrew jokes are a bit lost on us as they are not very funny. But Jesus was having a bit of a laugh with them. I remove the sarcasm from the comment now – it is an important part of the way that Jesus communicates with people that he is natural and at ease with them. Jesus communicates the Kingdom in a very amenable way. That’s not to say he was always joking, or that he was always popular; but I certainly think it challenges the over-spiritual holier-than-thou way with we can approach outreach (and, let’s face it, we’re all guilty of doing that). Communicating the gospel can be simply in the way we laugh with our mates when they’re laughing; cry when they’re crying; and just being ourselves the way God made us, and is shaping us, around them.

Verse 18 has always astounded me. Read it again. Let it impact you. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Is that true of your walk of faith? Meeting Jesus for them had such a profound impact that they dropped everything – their nets being their source of income, their jobs, what they did all day, their investment in the futures of themselves and their families – and followed Jesus. It was an all or nothing choice, and they weighed it up in an instant and gave their all. My question is why do I not give my all? They met the same Jesus that I know, who gives me the same command, but I don’t give my all. If Mark were writing about me as a fisherman called by Jesus, he’d write that I dropped my nets but took along a sneaky fishing rod just in case.

I write this question to me, and invite you to answer it for yourself too: Jesus asks me to drop everything and follow him; what have I kept hold of and why do I not entrust it to God?

I expect that if you have attempted to answer this question seriously, that you may have reached a difficult or even painful conclusion and need a decent amount of prayer. My advice is to seek out the support of someone you trust and spend some time in prayer with them. If this isn’t something you’re into, give it a go and I guarantee you’ll love it pretty much instantly!

The next two lads were mending their nets, and also (presumably) fishermen. But it was probably a bit to soon to use the “fishers of men” joke again. The last thing you want is to tell a joke that most people have already heard! Anyways…

vv21-28

You’ll notice you’ve read the word ‘immediately’ (Greek: εὐθύς euthys) several times already in Mark’s gospel (if you’re using a fairly accurate translation). This word appears in Mark’s gospel some 40 times; almost as many as in the entire rest of the New Testament combined. Mark has a story which unfolds at pace. As soon as one moment in or opportunity for ministry has passed, another reveals itself. Life often feels like it is lived at a hectic pace. What I can take from this gospel is that Jesus lived at just the same pace as us, but he never wasted a single opportunity to minister the Kingdom of God to people.

 Next we come to something a bit tricky. Jesus is speaking in church, and somebody interrupts. The sermon seems to be going down nicely, and people are really learning stuff about God. But the unclean spirits driving this heckler want the people to know that Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Jesus silences the unclean spirit, and casts it out of the man. Firstly I’d like you to picture this as a regular Sunday in church. You’re managing not to nod off because the sermon seems to be really speaking truth to you. You’re well into it. Then the serenity of the atmosphere is shattered by a crazy heckler. He’s shouting and screaming, and you’re thinking, really annoying the preacher. Now you’re starting to interact with the story. You need to do this in order to understand what happens next. You’d think that right from the outset of his ministry, Jesus would want it to be known that He is the Chosen One of God. But Jesus does not want people to know this fact. Mark’s gospel maintains most of the way through that Jesus doesn’t want this fact to be known.

If you’re posh, you call this the Messianic Secret. There could be many reasons for this, and we’ll explore it a bit more as the bible studies progress, but in this circumstance – as with all of the similar incidents – there are good reasons why Jesus silences those in the know. Think about it; the man who has just interrupted the best sermon you’ve heard is clearly possessed by a bad spirit. He has intention to harm and destroy. Does Jesus want his fame to be associated with the proclamations of such a man? Jesus heals the man who is possessed and people are left to marvel not only at the authority of his preaching, but his ability to heal those who are afflicted. The words and actions speak for themselves. Jesus does not want to be left open to misinterpretation. In a world where the Israelites expected all sorts of varying things of a messiah, the proof that Jesus was that man would not come by people saying he was, but by Jesus saying I AM. Jesus’ fame does grow throughout the entire region, but in a way that’s clear and factual rather than based on rumour and interpretation. There is authority in God’s word, and authority in works done in His name. If we are all about spreading Jesus’ fame, we need to be all about doing the work that proves what we have to say about Him.

Cool, let’s call it quits there. A few things to deliberate and pray through:

How can we be encouraged by the fact that Jesus has suffered all that we can suffer?

How can we encourage others in this way? Can we walk in the shoes of those around us too?

If the gospel isn’t popular, is it still worth us living it out?

Have you ‘dropped your nets’?

In today’s hectic world, are we utilising all of the opportunities to minister an authentic gospel to all people at all times?

Give yourselves a pat on the back, and relax with this and this.

 two5two

Written by two5two

June 24, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Posted in Bible Studies

Mark 1

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So to kick off the online Bible studies, we’re going to go through one of the gospels.

Mark’s gospel is the shortest, and has some very interesting features. It is widely believed, and backed up, that it was the first gospel (of the ones we have in the Bible today) to be written – and many think it was used as ‘research’ by the other gospel writers.

<In the coming studies, we’re going to look at Bible passages, their applications, and also some different theology and Bible study techniques. I’m going to try and stretch you a bit at points – but only if I think it’s going to be worth it in the end!>

So who was Mark?

Firstly, we need to think about why we should bother to answer the question! As the Bible is a book, we can understand it better by treating it like a book. I remember in school being asked by my English teachers “what was the author’s intention in writing this?” and thinking “who cares?” But when I’m reading the Bible, I care – because I believe it’s powerful. If I know who the author was, I can understand a bit more about what information they are trying to convey to me. By finding this out, you can also learn about what was going on when they wrote, the people they wrote to and how their message was meant to be received by people. With all of this info, it helps you to understand the text a whole lot better – and that’s why we’re doing Bible study, no?!

Mark was a mate of Paul. You can read about how Mark got involved in mission work (with ups and downs) in Acts (start at ch13 if you don’t mind missing some of the cracking stuff that goes before). It is also thought that Mark was later kind of a scribe that wrote the apostle Peter’s memoirs about his time with Jesus – so Mark’s gospel is sort of like what Peter remembered about Jesus, with some extra research too! Mark wasn’t from the same place as Jesus and the apostles; in fact it is believed that he was North African. This is the reason why he decides to explain Jewish customs more than the other gospel writers. It also helps us to understand that he wrote the book to help and encourage Christians from outside of the Jewish religion all over the Roman empire. For a nice simple intro to Mark, clicky. For a more in depth and complicated one, go here.

Anyways; whether or not you think it’s important to get to know the religious and political settings of the book and its author, I hope you’ll agree it’s a good idea to get into it! I’m going to kick off with a bit of a truncated (shortened) study, as I’ll assume you’ve spent hours researching the links above, and also you have exams to study for and world cup matches to watch.

Mark ch1

 This opening chapter has always interested me. It doesn’t hang about scene setting, or mention anything about when Jesus was born or when he was growing up. It starts with Jesus as an adult, about to start his ministry. This has interesting implications for us, but I’m not going into that yet! I’m going to split the passage into a few sections, but it’s quite long, so it’ll probably spill over into next week too. I’ll pick apart the verses and tell you stuff that I think helps make meaning out of the passage, then I’ll give you some things to think and pray about to finish off the study.

 vv1-8

So the book starts with “The beginning…” Just like Genesis does – coincidence? No! It’s cleverly linking the start of the gospel of Jesus with the start of the story of the world. And also, in the same way that Genesis starts a story that’s still unravelling today, so the gospel of Jesus is too. Mark also refers to Jesus as “the Son of God.” This is a phrase used very rarely in Mark’s gospel, but is important. Mark is writing about who Jesus is. The study of the portrayal of Jesus is called Christology. Mark’s gospel generally focuses on the fact that Jesus was fully man, more than it focuses on Jesus being fully God. Posh people say “Mark has a low Christology” when they are trying to explain this! If you want to see the opposite, read John’s gospel, which has a “high Christology.” Mark does two things here that are worthy of note. Firstly he doesn’t mention any of the childhood and more ‘human’ aspects of Jesus’ life. Secondly, he acknowledges that Jesus is divine at the start of the book, before shifting the focus to Jesus’ humanity. Mark, you must remember, is writing to an audience who needed to read about Jesus’ humanity – which makes all that research we’ve just done worth it already! So don’t think that Mark didn’t think that Jesus was both man and God, it’s just he had to make some things more obvious for his readers.

Also note that the gospel (good news) of Jesus starts with John the Baptist. Not the most obvious place to start – with someone who isn’t Jesus. I’ve wondered about the significance of this, and can only conclude that our willingness to do what God asks of us puts us in the same position as John the Baptist. The good news of Jesus in the lives of many around us may begin with us preparing the way and calling out in the wilderness in Jesus’ name. But, like John, we must be willing to acknowledge who Jesus really is, no matter what the cost (and John paid a high price for preaching in Jesus’ name!)

 vv 9-13

If you need to picture it, click. Jesus gives John the privilege of baptising him. John, only through an acknowledgement of who Jesus was is able to do so, and to minister not just to him, but to ‘the whole Judean countryside.’ It is all about giving God His proper place, and that is something we need to do more and more of in our lives. What happens is one of the very few points of the Bible where all three members of the Holy Trinity can be seen together. God’s words give further evidence that Mark wants us to think of Jesus as divine, which we will need to remember as we delve further into Mark’s gospel. We can also see that there is a particular order in these events. The Spirit descends upon Jesus, and guides Him out into the desert. It is only with the guidance of the Spirit that Jesus goes, and he is attended to by angels when He does. When we go off, we must do so filled with, and led by, the Holy Spirit.

After this point, Jesus begins His ministry. So I’m going to leave the study here this week, with these thoughts:

Are you living life led by the Holy Spirit?

Does God have His proper place in your hearts, heads, and deeds?

In what way can we see that discovering Jesus is just the start of the good news?

laters,

two5two

Written by two5two

June 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Bible Studies

Hello world! 252 is here!

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This is where you’ll be able to find updates on 252 bible studies, and what I think about life, youth culture, the Church (catholic and apostolic), theology and maybe some other links and fun things and that.

Whenever I can remember to update, that is!

Written by two5two

June 2, 2010 at 10:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized