Patch

RE Verse reading–Mark 5:1-20 (day three)
“No one could bind him anymore.” Leaks always get bigger, tears always get wider, and corrosion always goes deeper. When our machinery or equipment fails, the breakdown is simply the outcome of neglecting to address breaches, rips, or rust. You can’t patch forever. There comes a time when you must repair. In our society, greed becomes more insistent, lust becomes more insatiable, and anger becomes more destructive. We patch these things with money or serial marriages or blaming others, but the day comes when people break. And society breaks. And no one can bind it anymore. In a society that is well, no one lives among the tombs. But healing from the Savior will come with the burden of submitting our will to his. This is what the people of the Gerasenes were afraid of. So they decided to keep on patching.

Company

RE Verse reading–Mark 2:13-17 (Day Three)
“…for there were many who followed him.” The “many” in this case refers to tax collectors. The entire culture in which Jesus was raised steeped him in ethnic and nationalistic separateness and exclusivity. There were plenty of reasons for Jesus and Roman loyalists to keep their distance from each other. And yet, “there were many…” These fraternizers with the Empire would not have been many if they did not believe Jesus wanted to be around them. For Jesus not only to eat with socially shunned people, but actually to enjoy their company, was a slap in the face to those who longed to be free of Caesar’s dominion. And yet, a refusal to love people is a slap in the face to God. At the end of the day, Jesus knew whose kingdom mattered most.

Redefine Greatness

RE Verse reading–Mark 19-20; 3:13-17; 10:35-45 (Day Three)
“Whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant…”  Does Jesus redefine the path to greatness?  No.  He redefines greatness.  Servanthood is greatness.  That’s not some Orwellian oxymoron.  Jesus well knew that serving people means you must get close enough to them to do unto them what you would have others do unto you.  Such a way of life trains your heart to love people.  Jesus has in mind building a community of disciples pursuing such greatness.  That’s the only kind of community—and the only kind of greatness—that will last for eternity.  In order to love, serve someone.  In order to serve someone, learn what Jesus means when he speaks of greatness.

Shift

RE Verse reading–Mark 1:16-18; 8:27-33; 14:26-31, 66-72; 16:5-7 (Day Three)
“At once they left their nets and followed him.”  What do you think you can’t live without?  For Peter and the other fishermen who followed Jesus, it was the tools of their trade.  But they left them behind when they actually began to pay attention to what Jesus was saying.  When they paid attention to Jesus, they could hear God calling to them. Their jobs did not prevent, per se, their devotion to the Lord.  But the way they gave themselves to their work certainly did.  Paying attention to Jesus ended up requiring that they make major shifts in the way they structured their days in order to hear him more intently and more clearly.  So they rearranged their lives.  They learned what they could live without—and what they could not.

Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.

RE Verse reading–Mark 1:1-11 (Day Three)  “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”  John came baptizing, and for good reason.  Baptism signifies a beginning—in our Christian tradition, of course, a new birth into life under the reign of Christ—and for the people in John’s day, a beginning of a new action of God in history.  You can’t begin the day until you wake up.  You can’t pick the vegetables until you sow the seed.  You can’t run the race until you’ve forced your body to begin the training program.  And you can’t listen to the Lord until you’ve braced your whole being to receive what he says.  Baptism in 30 A.D. meant that people were ready to listen—really ready.  If you want to hear God, John says, then prepare to do so.  What’s the evidence that you’re poised for God’s words to you?

Center Stage

RE Verse reading–Acts 28:17-31 (day three)  God used poverty and weakness for his own entrance into the world, but God doesn’t always work through such lowly means.  When the times are right for world-shifting movements, he often employs significant influencers of thought to herald his work.  Such an influencer was Paul.  Here was an intellectual colossus, holding forth at the world center for commerce, trade, and ideas.  Yes, he was a prisoner, but that doesn’t always mean a person is socially marginalized.  Some of history’s most profound shapers come to mind: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr.—no strangers to incarceration.  Paul changed the world in chains, God helping him.  Will you pray that God would usher more providentially placed highly influential disciples into the public square in our own society?

The Big Reveal

RE Verse reading–Acts 16:25-34, Acts 17:1-34 (day three) The Sunday School answer was always “Jesus” no matter what the question was.  At least that’s how the joke goes.  But in Acts, the answer to the questions that welled up in people’s hearts as they negotiated their existence with what seemed to be a harsh or legalistic universe really was “Jesus.”  The difference between a Sunday School answer and a real-time answer, though, is revelation.  A Sunday School answer doesn’t really reveal anything.  It’s a canned, planned, and sanitized response to a question.  The people we meet in Acts—the jailer who’d seen it all, the synagogue faithful who’d seen nothing outside their religious tradition, the philosophers trying to see the invisible—these people’s questions hammered away at their minds: Will God rescue me?  Will God hear me?  Will God know me?  And the answer each time is the revelation of a person:  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Outsourcing

RE Verse reading–Acts 15:1-29 (day three)  The Jerusalem Council certainly produced one of the defining statements of the early Christian movement.  Of necessity, this local church had to work out its own theology.  They couldn’t consult with New Testament theologians.  They couldn’t buy the latest tome on Christian doctrine.  They were living these things out in real time.  In our day, we navigate a flood of authors who help us strengthen our Christian understanding.  This is as it should be.  We face the temptation, though, to outsource our thinking to the latest thought leader.  Let us remember that we have a responsibility—as these early believers did—to wrestle with weighty matters, and to do it together. No one produces better theology than the local church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and committed to the scriptures.  Where two or more are gathered, the Lord is there, and he will help us think.

Guest Blogger: Bryan Richardson – Associate Pastor, Singles, Small Groups, & Pastoral Ministries

Should I Stay or Should I Go

RE Verse reading–Acts 13:1-52 (day three)
The song by the Clash has become an indispensible part of classic rock radio.  Unfortunately, the question that the title asks has become a familiar part of our life with God.  Our faith frequently presents us with mystery, with things we don’t understand, and so we ask.  And that’s okay.  Questions aren’t a problem.  But we want to know what lies ahead.  And often, that’s just not going to happen.  So we become indecisive, and our minds get paralyzed by questions.  But when Paul and Barnabas saw their mission to Pisidian Antioch had failed, they didn’t wring their hands.  They didn’t demand to know the future before packing it in and moving on.  They didn’t second-guess their entire missions initiative.  They had come to know enough about what God can do to launch into the unknown. That’s faith: going where you don’t know on the basis of what you do know.

Guest Blogger: Bryan Richardson – Associate Pastor, Singles, Small Groups, & Pastoral Ministries

Listen

RE Verse reading–Acts 11:1-26 (day three)  The beginning of the meeting: “The circumcised believers criticized [Peter] and said, ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” (v. 3)  The end of the meeting: “They had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” (v. 18)  Between these two statements, the believers in the Jerusalem church listened to what Peter had to say.  Listening is a posture of humility, and so it is hard for us to practice.  In these accounts of the early days of the church, between persecution and questions of fellowship and the like, the believers often found that they did not know what to do.  They prayed, they met together, they reviewed their history, and they listened to one another.  Then, they acted on the best knowledge they had.  The results speak for themselves.  It seems this young church had developed a culture in which they were not afraid to say they did not know how to proceed.  Following the pattern of the church in Acts, a good corporate and individual prayer might be this: “Lord, we do not know what to do.”  If we will pray regularly like that, we will train our ears to become humble enough to listen.

Guest Blogger: Bryan Richardson – Associate Pastor, Singles, Small Groups, & Pastoral Ministries