And his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
I got this in my email today (thanks Lilian!) and had to share it. I don’t know where it originated. It has an American theme but it’s applicable to all of us.
Letter from Jesus about Christmas
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square (or in the mall) because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you andwhat each of our tasks was. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up… It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
(and my addition: teach them to reach out and bless others by giving to those less fortunate. Some ideas are here and here and here. One of my proudest moments was some 5-6 years ago when MissN said that what she wanted for Christmas was for us to sponsor another World Vision child in her name. She picked out little Refiloe in Lesotho and it’s proved to be a gift that keeps on giving).
5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary–
especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :
*I LOVE YOU,*
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
Ordinary men. Not rabbis or learned men. Jesus appeals to everyman.
17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
One of my favourite verses! The expression Jesus uses is metaphorical. He often does not speak literally during his earthly ministry. Much of what he says is obscure. He teaches in parables. What he teaches needs wrestling with, pondering, meditating on… for the rest of our lives.
18And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
This is different to the account given in John’s Gospel and Luke. Mark chose to emphasise the immediacy of their response. This for me indicates how very compelling Jesus was to them, that Simon (Peter) and Andrew left their families, livelihood and all they knew to follow Jesus into an unknown future. Mark’s gospel emphasises the power of Jesus and here it is exemplified in the response of Peter and Andrew. If only we could react as decisively and follow Jesus so completely!
19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Mark uses immediately again. This time it is Jesus who acts immediately. His omniscience enables him to choose/know his disciples instantaneously.
Following Jesus will sometimes mean families are divided. There can be a cost. Lives are changed – irrecoverably.
Yesterday’s post on whether immersion or baptism was the best translation of baptidzo evoked this response from a friend on Berean Spirit. I wanted to share as it is so powerful:
Some thoughts on Immerse and the beauty of it. As I read what you wrote I could not help but think of the water covering my body. I was covered! I was covered by his blood! I was covered by His forgiveness! I was Immersed in His Spirit! I have been engulfed by His all! He has embraced me totally! I can’t get out of His embrace for it is for eternity! I have been IMMERSED in His love! My old man has been drowned/immersed!
Thanks, Gerry Parker. That spoke to me today.
Now to Mark:
Interesting how Mark uses adverbs and adverbial phrases of time. Lots of instances of immediately. Here we have In those days. The NLT has one day. Mark’s accound is vivid, succinct, pacy.
Our first indication of where Jesus is from (geographically) is in this verse.
Why was Jesus baptized? The answer I usually get when I ask that is “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15) which isn’t a satisfying answer for me. Jesus was and is all righteousness. Surely he didnt have to be baptized to fulfill righteousness? However baptism did identify him with righteousness and that righteousness will be the justification for our sins. It was a public statement proclaiming the inauguration of his public ministry. It announced to the world (well the quiet backwater of Judea initially – the world was to hear later) that God was walking amongst us and about to start his work.
Did he have to fulfill the requirements for priesthood which include washing with water and the anointing with the Holy Spirit? This is a new idea I have just been exposed to. Comments, please! Heb 2: 17 & 18 seem to support this.
10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he(T) saw(U) the heavens being torn open(V) and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And(W) a voice came from heaven,(X) “You are my beloved Son;[d] with you I am well pleased.”
Imagery used in the account of Noah abounds. The water, the dove, the sign from heaven. The tearing open of heaven foreshadows the death of Jesus when the curtain is torn in the temple, the sun stopped shining and Jesus’ spirit leaves him to return “up” to the Father. (Matt 27:50)
We also have all the persons of the Trinity here – father, son, spirit. In verse 1 Mark proclaimed Jesus the son of God. Here God the father does so. And the father expresses his delight in his son. God is about relationship.
This explains the reasons for Jesus’ baptism fully.
12(Y) The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13(Z) And he was in the wilderness forty days, being(AA) tempted by(AB) Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and(AC) the angels were ministering to him.
40 is significant. The Jews wandered 40 years in the desert. Jesus is in the desert here, being tested and proven the true Israelite. He follows the precedent of Moses and Elijah too. Angels attended Jesus as they had attended Israel in the desert. The contrast of Jesus and Satan in the desert with wild beasts on the one hand and angels on the other is a very visual image for us to conjure
14(AD) Now after John was arrested, Jesus(AE) came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, (AF) “The time is fulfilled, and(AG) the kingdom of God is at hand;(AH) repent and believe in the gospel.”
The pace picks up. John has been arrested (we need to go to Matthew and Luke for details) and the kindgom is at hand! Another mention of the need for repentance in just 15 verses. We need to repent and believe the good news to be part of the kingdom.
Excitement mounts – how will Jesus display his deity? How will the kingdom be ushered in?
Immersion in Christ – Mark’s Gospel
I discuss the Bible in a couple of Yahoo Groups, one in particular. I have learned an enormous amount in the 3 years I have been on this list especially but the same topics seem to be discussed ad infinitum. I have some quite different views from many on the list and I enjoy presenting my views and interacting with the list members, some of whom are close friends and I consider them mentors (even if we don’t have identical perspectives).
Recently as some of my views have changed, I have been reading Christian blogs more, searching for different approaches that make sense to me and that I can accept intellectually as well as spiritually. As one of my favourite bloggers, Michael Spencer – the Internet Monk, said in a post today:
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot recently, but I’m far more interested in a person coming to a position of honesty and integrity than I am in maintaining labels that aren’t working. The choice between a phony Christian profession and honest doubt is not a hard one for me.
I can’t maintain the label of “strictly evangelical” any longer. However, some of my friends see my change of perspective as the beginning of a slippery slope towards a loss of faith. This is far from the truth – my journey is towards a more authentic faith where I am not forced to try to reconcile interpretations which I cannot accept. I was challenged to spend as much time in the gospels as I do in the blogs. Now this is a fair comment (I spend too much time blog reading and not enough in the Word) and one I have taken to heart. I need to feed on spiritual bread and drink of the living water. I have been inspired by Nick Gill’s commitment to blogging his way through the Bible and decided to blog my way through the Gospels. I will post in my group (Berean Spirit) as well as here. And as my blog is networked to facebook, it will post there too.
For various reasons I have decided to stick with looking at one gospel at a time. (Some in Berean Spirit suggested a chronological study of Jesus’ life). It is more manageable, and I don’t want to commit to something I have neither the time, the discipline nor the skills to complete. Immersion in one gospel at a time (pun intended) will enable us to discern the intent and voice of that author and it’s message for us. I chose Mark to begin with for a few reasons. It’s most likely the first gosepl that was written. It has more of Jesus’ deeds and less of his teachings than Luke and Matthew do, so it might make sense to look at Jesus’ teachings later after looking at a framework of his life in Mark first. And, I don’t want the discussion to go offtrack by being distracted by the genealogies in those gospels (I have different views on the historicity of the genealogies to many in Berean Spirit) or discussion of the virgin birth. Plus the profundity of the Sermon on the Mount scares me – I need to work up to discussing that. And Mark is the least “literary” of the gospels so I have spent less time in Mark than the other gospels so far. This will address that lack.
I am going to post my comments after reading, prayer and reflection. I am not intending to make this an indepth study so will try not to get distracted (as I am wont to do) by commentaries or tangents. I’m using the ESV to paste here (thanks Biblegateway) but am reading the NIV, TNIV, ESV and NLT each day before commenting. And I will make each post short so it’s more manageable.
Mark 1 (English Standard Version)
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,(A) the Son of God.[a]
The gospel is ongoing beyond Mark’s account (into Acts and beyond). The gospel not limited to a written account or to this account. My Bible tells me that the Son of God was added later. Is that significant? Probably not… it doesn’t contradict anything.
Mark indicates that Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel’s prophecies in quoting here from Isaiah and Malachi. A reminder that Jesus cannot be understood in isolation but in the context of the whole of God’s story.
4(F) John appeared, baptizing in(G) the wilderness and proclaiming(H) a baptism of(I) repentance(J) for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan,(K) confessing their sins.
We should not be limited to “this” baptism. We need to embrace baptism in all it’s richness and spiritual complexity. If we limit baptism to the “remission of sins” we miss much of what Jesus is all about.
Note that “all” is used here in a hyperbolic sense, not literally. It is obvious (from the rest of the gospel story) that not everyone in Jerusalem and Judea were baptized by John.
Does this description have echoes of the 40 years the Jews spent in the wilderness? I know it links John to Elijah and other prophets.
7And he preached, saying,(O) “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
John’s foreshadows the servant leadership of Jesus.
The poetic language of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi and John contrasts with the prosaic language of Mark.
8(P) I have baptized you with water, but(Q) he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The importance of Holy Spirit baptism. Water baptism is insufficient unless we are immersed in the Holy Spirit too. We need to base our theology of baptism on the gospels and the whole canon of Scripture, not just Acts 2:38.
I was wondering how this line would be translated with immersion instead? (Berean Spirit group has been discussing how the Greek word baptidzo should best be translated into English – by the transliteration baptism or immersion.
8 I have immersed you in water, but he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”
It loses something, I think. Baptism is much more than immersion.
Verse 3 makes me want to sing. Handel’s Messiah is one of my favourite pieces of music.
I invite your comments. And your prayers for my perseverance with immersion in Jesus.
and her family. We love you and are praying ceaselessly for you, as are many of my friends, near and far.
from Psalm 18
1 I love you, Lord;
you are my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
3 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.
4 The ropes of death entangled me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
5 The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
6 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears.
16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
but the Lord supported me.
19 He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.
20 The Lord rewarded me for doing right;
he restored me because of my innocence.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
22 I have followed all his regulations;
I have never abandoned his decrees.
23 I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin.
24 The Lord rewarded me for doing right.
He has seen my innocence.
25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
to those with integrity you show integrity.
26 To the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the wicked you show yourself hostile.
27 You rescue the humble,
but you humiliate the proud.
28 You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
29 In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.
30 God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
31 For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
32 God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.
36 You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping.
46 The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!
May the God of my salvation be exalted!
47 He is the God who pays back those who harm me;
he subdues the nations under me
48 and rescues me from my enemies.
You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies;
you save me from violent opponents.
49 For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations;
I will sing praises to your name.
50 You give great victories to your king;
you show unfailing love to your anointed,
to David and all his descendants forever.
This was the song that became my prayer when I was searching for words yesterday:
You are being lifted up!