Exodus 32:11-14

Moses InterceedingExodus 32

11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

One of the more interesting and tragic figures in Christian history is Marcion. The 3rd edition of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that he was a heretic, “the son of a Bishop who excommunicated him on grounds of immorality,” who died around the year AD 160. The ODCC then summarizes his significance and beliefs:

His followers were certainly the chief danger to the Church from dogmatic unorthodoxy in the latter half of the 2nd cent. By the end of the 3rd cent. most of the Marcionite communities had been absorbed in Manichaeism, but they continued to exist in small numbers down to a much later date.

            Marcion’s central thesis was that the Christian Gospel was wholly a Gospel of Love to the absolute exclusion of Law. This doctrine…led him to reject the OT completely. The Creator God or Demiurge, revealed in the OT from Gen. 1 onwards as wholly a God of Law, had nothing in common with the God of Jesus Christ. Study of the OT indicated that this Jewish God constantly involved himself in contradictory courses of action, that he was fickle, capricious, ignorant, despotic, cruel. Utterly different was the Supreme God of Love whom Jesus came to reveal. It was His purpose to overthrow the Demiurge…[Jesus’] Passion and Death were the work of the Creator God.

Of the New Testament, Marcion only accepted “ten of the Epp. of St. Paul (he either rejected or did not know the Pastorals) and an edited recension of the Gospel of St. Luke.”[1]

Marcion was indeed interesting and indeed tragic. Even so, his central idea—that the God of the Old Testament was an evil demiurge to be rejected and that the God of the New Testament whom Jesus revealed is utterly different—is a belief that rears its head (often, admittedly, in subtle and even somewhat muted forms) even today among Christians. I know of no Christian who would say such a thing outright, but I have encountered Christians who almost seem to speak of the Old Testament picture of God as inferior or even foreign to the New Testament picture.

Interestingly, our text might be the kind of text that Marcion, mistakenly, would have pointed to, for it appears to depict God as almost being chastised and argued down by Moses from decisions that might strike us on the surface as beneath Him. But is that what is really happening here? Is God being petulant and temperamental? Most certainly he is not. Rather, in God’s exchange with Moses concerning His anger towards the rebellious Israelites we find a beautiful picture of divine grace and mercy. More than that, what we find in Exodus 31:11-14 are images that will find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

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Mark 14:1-9

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Allow me to propose that there are and always have been in the church two general types of Christians. The categories are not always nice and neat and, at times, people might fluctuate between the two. However, I believe we can say that, in general, the membership of the average church will consist of “nominal Christians” and “authentic Christians.”

By “nominal Christians” I mean Christians whose beliefs are largely inherited. They oftentimes grew up in and around Christian culture and picked up the language and beliefs of the Church. They consider themselves Christians, and perhaps they are—perhaps, that is, they have had a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ and placed saving faith in Him along the way—but they are more “nominal” than “convictional.” Where this tends to flesh itself out is when the ostensible beliefs of the nominal Christian are challenged by dominant cultural mores or when holding to Christian beliefs would bring the nominal Christian into conflict with or under the ridicule of non-Christian culture. The nominal Christian may not immediately abandon their unpopular beliefs, but they will usually modify them or mute them or take the sharp edges off of them. When it comes to paying a price, the nominal Christian does not have enough actual conviction to hold tenaciously to their beliefs because, when all is said and done, they are oftentimes not actually beliefs.

Then there are “authentic Christians.” By “authentic” I do not mean “super” or “perfect,” for no Christian is. The authentic Christian may tragically fall or lapse into nominalism and need to repent and return to an authentic walk with Christ. They may, like Peter, deny their Lord and need, like Peter, restoration before the Lord. But the authentic Christian has the Holy Spirit working within him or her and cannot comfortably stay in such a position for very long. They will be grieved when they fall or when they modify the faith to meet the perceived demands of the dominant culture. The authentic Christian actually believes the truth of the gospel. They are real to him or her. They matter. They are convictions. When and if their beliefs come into conflict with the culture, the authentic Christian feels a deep allegiance to Jesus Christ and faithfulness to His teachings. He or she sees abandoning or modifying these beliefs as treason against the King and finds the notion detestable.

What is most interesting is when nominal Christians and authentic Christians come into contrast within the church. It happens all the time: the theoretical comes into contrast with the actual and the two stare at each other with some sense of confusion about how they can both profess to be Christians but think or behave so very differently in this or that circumstance. When all is at peace, the differences are hard to spot, but allow conflict or persecution or the need to take a stand to arise and the differences become clear.

Our text presents us with a classic example of this awkwardness, indeed, of this conflict between the nominal and the authentic. As Jesus approaches the cross, an authentic disciple, an actual believer who understands what the coming of Jesus means for her life and for the world, does something that is offensive to the nominal believer.

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Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart

41AuoLnO+XL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart has been a very important book in my life for some years now.  While my first reading of it did not wallop me in quite the immediate and spectacular way that Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines did when I read it over twenty years ago, it did occur to me, after first reading Renovation of the Heart, that here was a book with which I needed to grapple and which would be a very important tool in my life and ministry.  Indeed, since that time, I have taught the book to a small group at Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock (using the LifeSprings Church Resources video curriculum of the material), have used it in one-on-one personal counseling with a church member (who now is a big Willard fan because of how this book helped him), and used it as my text for teaching the theory, philosophy, and theology of spiritual formation to the Fall 2017 OBU@NLC freshman class.

In truth, I think that I have never encountered a book that offers such a well-reasoned, biblically-grounded, theologically-sound, and practical approach to the issue of how the soul is formed and what it looks like to follow Jesus.  Willard argues that we live from the inside-out and the spiritual formation does not happen through mere behavior modification (what he calls elsewhere “the gospel of sin management”), though all of us have been and constantly are being formed.  The heart must be changed, must be renovated, for Christian spiritual formation to unfold as it should.

As Willard unpacks what this means and what it looks like, the reader will be challenged to think much more deeply about discipleship and about the Christian life.  Willard does a phenomenal job of discussing the constituent parts of the self and how these varying aspects of the self work.  The reader will encounter helpful and thoughtful explorations of terms that he or she may think he or she knows well, but about which he or she has possibly never given serious and informed thought:  spirit, heart, will, choice, thought, feeling, soul, body, denial, ideas, information, images, pride, disciplines, character, duplicity, surrender, participation, contentment, abandonment, etc.  Willard is a masterful guide through these important terms and concepts.

Willard believes that the reason we are not seeing real and genuine change in the lives of Christians is because we have not thought well about these matters and, as a result, are not taking the steps that are necessary to lead to real change.  We are not, we might say, putting ourselves in a position where actual change is possible.

I suspect the key concept might be Willard’s concept of VIM:  Vision, Intention, Means.  I say I suspect this might be the key concept because there are truly so many revolutionary ideas here that it is hard to settle on one.  Even so, the idea of VIM, when embraced and prayerfully reflected upon, is a very helpful and, in one sense, “simple” way forward.  At the very least, VIM establishes a baseline for genuine change.  We will not change without a vision of what we would like to be, without an actual intention to do so at all costs, and without the employment of Christ-honoring means toward that end.

Willard’s idea of the stages of discipleship is very insightful:

  • surrender
  • abandonment
  • contentment
  • participation

His unpacking of this progression needs to be read, contemplated, and grasped.  It was, I thought, one of the more powerful sections of the book, and as I have shared this particular idea with others they have attested to its great usefulness as a way of thinking about where we are in our walks with Jesus.

Willard’s theology of the body is extremely helpful.  His concept of “assault/withdrawal” is a very effective way to understand the nature of human conflict and the ways that relationships disintegrate.

I could go on and on, but I hope that the above will give you a sense of what you’ll encounter in Renovation of the Heart.  The material is challenging.  This is a book that needs to be read slowly, carefully, and repeatedly.  I find something new each time I teach it.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It is very near the top of my personal list of books that have had life-changing impact on me.  Yet it is also a continuing challenge for me, as I have certainly not lived out all of its concepts as I should.  I will return to Renovation of the Heart again.  In truth, it’s arguments and truths are never far from me.

 

Philip K. Dick’s Ubik

t100_novels_ubik1stLast Christmas my brother Condy and I purchased box sets of the writings of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.  A friend tells me that this is the only science fiction writer to have his works published in the Library of America series, though I haven’t confirmed that.  Anyway, I have only just finished his novel, Ubik and I thought I would share just a few thoughts.  I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “trippy” in my life, but here goes:  this was one trippy read!  It was gloriously weird but also very interesting and well done.  It’s hard to describe, really, but I’ll give a few summary statements to (hopefully) give a sense of what Ubik is like.

In the future, there are companies that employ anti-psi’s who are hired to thwart the nefarious actions of those with psychic powers.  One such company, Runciter Associates, has its team of inertials (anti-psi’s) partially killed…or killed…or not killed…or seemingly killed…by Hollis who lures them into a deadly trap.  The uncertainty concerning death has to do with the fact that, in the future, if a person is put on cold-pac quickly enough they can be kept in a state of half-life for a time where they can still communicate with their loved ones or associates.

All of this is told engagingly and with fascinating precision.  Dick’s imagination really is a thing to behold!

As the story unfolds, it focuses in on the character of Joe Chip, a member of the Runciter Associates team who was one of the many targets of Hollis’ attack.  As Chip begins to observe very strange things happening around him, he has to come to terms with what has…or possibly has…or has not happened to him and what it means!  Throughout it all, the mysterious product “Ubik” keeps making appearance in the chapter headings in advertisement lingo heralding its marvels but also hinting at its dangers.

I’m not sure what to say next…this is really just an experience that needs to be had by the reader.  It does raise certain tantalizing philosophical, religious, and existential questions.  Theologically, we even see Molinism peek its head up above the surface. The vision it unfolds of the future is intriguing and also terrifying.  If you like good science fiction, and if you don’t mind just holding on for the ride without always knowing what’s happening, you’ll really like Ubik.  We did!

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible

51oyMKx1gmL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I have been wanting for some time to share some thoughts about Barbara Kingsolver’s amazing novel, The Poisonwood Bible.  I realize that I am very much late to the party in doing so as it was published over a decade ago and has been widely hailed as a modern classic for years.  But though I’m late to the party I did still want to show up for The Poisonwood Bible is one of the most remarkable novels I’ve ever read.  This is not to say that I did not find some aspects problematic.  Rather, I am saying that even in light of these areas I found this to be one of the most well-told, provocative, insightful, powerful, unsettling, and well-written books I’ve ever encountered.

The Poisonwood Bible is about a Baptist missionary family who is taken to Africa by their dominant and domineering preacher husband/father Nathan Price.  The story is told from the perspective of the Price women:  Nathan’s wife Orleanna and their daughters Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May.  We never hear Nathan in his own voice but we do hear Nathan a great deal and, likely, a great deal too much.

How to describe this story?  It is a story of one man’s descent into madness and the demons that drove him, of one woman’s story of survival in the face of her husband and the cultural and geopolitical quagmire that they encounter in Africa and, indeed, the world at large, and of four daughters’ experience of being children (of varying ages) in the midst of these powerful familial, religious, and cultural cross-currents.

Kingsolver’s decision to tell the story through the voices of the Price women turns out to be very effective.  The development of each of their unique characters was nothing short of enthralling.  By the end of the novel you feel that you know the quirks, the personalities, and the hysterical, irritating, and, at times, infuriating (i.e. Rachel) idiosyncrasies of each.  I was especially struck by the character Orleanna, who emerges as a bruised, wounded, but ultimately victorious picture of courage and sheer grit.

I am a Baptist pastor who believes in missions, so the book simultaneously challenged and  irritated me.  It irritated me to think that the character of Nathan will feed into and bolster the worst possible stereotypes that some have of missionaries and perhaps especially of Baptist missionaries.  I want very much to say that I have never met Nathan Price, though I offer two caveats:  (1) I have met people with certain of his traits and (2) I do not deny that creatures like him exist.  The history of missions is too clear to deny his appearance on the stage here and there.  But, in my experience as a Southern Baptist pastor pastoring conservative churches in the South, not only have I never met Nathan Price, but I consider him to be monstrous, I consider much of his theology to be blasphemous and absurd, and I could not personally be in the presence of such a person long without giving voice to this.  The people I know and go on the mission field with would say the very same.

Even so, there is Nathan Price in all of his offensive arrogance:  the complete lack of consideration of the culture in which he was, the thinly-veiled disdain for the people he was, in theory, trying to reach, the maddening belief (seemingly) in mechanical baptismal regeneration, the sanctimony, the stupidity, etc. etc.  I would say this to any who might come across this review after having read the book:  yes, in the two-thousand year history of the Church despicable characters like Nathan Price have emerged far too many times, but please know that most of us are not only not like him but we recoil in horror at the sight of him.  Furthermore, many missionaries over the years have done amazing work and been a great blessing to the lives of those to whom they have ministered.  (And I gather, thankfully, from some of Kingsolver’s interviews, that she would not dispute this.  She was herself the daughter of missionary parents and has made clear that this is not a story about them.)

Even so, I am glad that Kingsolver created Nathan Price.  He needs to be seen.  He is as much a walking cautionary tale as a walking contradiction.  He is religion at its worst.  He is, to put it mildly, anti-Christ, all the while claiming to be serving Christ.  And, on a personal level, the depiction of such a character challenged me to make sure that I never fall into the kind of obscene pitfalls into which he fell.  It also challenged me to try to view the missionary task through the eyes of those to whom we go and to ask, “What might I be doing that communicates disinterest in or disdain towards the actual lives of the people to whom I seek to minister?”  That is not an unimportant question.

There is so much more than could be said about this amazing book.  Its political message is worth hearing and its cultural insights are really fascinating.  But, for me, the characters make the book.  It is a story of a family.  It is a gripping tale.  It gets under your skin and stays with you.

This is a very very good book.  I would say it is also an important book.  In truth, I think it should be read in seminary missiology classes.  Regardless, you really should read The Poisonwood Bible.

Mark 13:28-37

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 13

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

What do the following dates have in common?

66-70 / 365 / 375-400 / 500 / April 6, 793 / 800 / 799-806 / 848 / 992-995 / January 1, 1000 / 1033 / 1200-1260 / 1284 / 1290-1335 / 1346-1351 / 1370 / 1378 / 1504 / February 1, 1524 / February 20, 1524 / 1524-1528 / May 27, 1528 / October 19, 1533 / April 5, 1534 / 1555 / 1585 / 1600 / February 1, 1624 / 1648 / 1651 / 1654 / 1656 / 1655-1657 / 1658 / 1660 / 1666 / 1673 / 1688 / 1689 / 1694 / 1697 / 1700 / 1705-1708 / 1716 / April 5, 1719 / 1700-1734 / October 16, 1736 / 1736 / 1757 / May 19, 1780 / November 19, 1795 / October 19, 1814 / April 28, 1843 / December 31, 1843 / March 21, 1844 / October 22, 1844 / August 7, 1847 / February 13, 1925 / September 1935 / December 21, 1954 / April 22, 1959 / February 4, 1962 / August 20, 1967 / 1967 / August 9, 1969 / 1969 / 1972 / January 1974 / 1975 / 1976 / 1977 / 1980 / 1981 / 1982 / April-June 1982 / March 10, 1982 / June 21, 1982 / 1985 / April 29, 1986 / August 17, 1987 / September 11-13, 1988 / October 3, 1988 / September 30, 1989 / April 23, 1990 / September 9, 1991 / 1991 / September 28, 1992 / October 28, 1992 / 1993 / May 2, 1994 / September 1994 June 29, 1994 / October 2, 1994 / March 31, 1995 / December 17, 1996 / March 26, 1997 / August 10, 1997 / October 23, 1997 / March 31, 1998 / July 1999 / August 18, 1999 / September 11, 1999 / 1999 / January 1, 2000 / April 6, 2000 / April 6, 2000 / May 5, 2000 / 2000 / 2001 / May 27, 2003 / October 30-November 29, 2003 / September 12, 2006 / April 29, 2007 / 2010 / May 21, 2011 / September 29, 2011 / October 21, 2011 / May 27, 2012 / June 30, 2012 / December 21, 2012 / August 23, 2013 / April 2014 / September 2015 / September 23, 2017 / October 21, 2017

If you guessed, “Those are years in which people predicted the world would end!” you are correct! In truth, this list is incomplete and other dates could be added. Furthermore, the list does not include future dates that have also been predicted. These are just the dates that have been predicted and have already passed.

When you look at that list it is hard not to think, “Why do we keep doing this? Why do we keep trying to predict when the world will end?” But we do indeed do it! Human beings just cannot help themselves.

For Christians, this is utterly inexcusable for Jesus specifically said that we cannot know the exact time of His return. We cannot know the exact time, but we can read the times and live in preparedness. It is very important that we get this right or else we can really get sidetracked, disillusioned, and do injury to our faith. Let us consider what Jesus says about the coming of the end.

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Exodus 32:1-10

Sin-of-the-Golden-CalfExodus 32

1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. 7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

Tony Merida has offered some noteworthy comments about the pervasiveness of idolatry in modern life and about the human propensity for idolatry in general.

A few of our pastors and interns took a trip to Boston recently to explore the idea of sending a church planting team to New England. The need for churches in the Northeast is great. One Christian leader there calls the area north of Boston “the desert.” Some estimate that it is currently 1-percent evangelical at best.

As our friends described their culture to us, they pointed out that people actually worship in the Northeast. Some people worship the Red Sox. Others, in the world of academia and research, are slaves to ambition. In Salem, Massachusetts, they statistically have more witches than Christians. The Northeast is really no different from anywhere else in the world. Left to ourselves, we will worship something other than the living God. To paraphrase Calvin, “The human heart is an idol factory.”

Because of this universal problem, we need to understand this subject. Os Guinness and John Seel comment on the how important this topic is: “Idolatry is the most discussed problem in the Bible…There can be no believing communities without an unswerving eye to the detection and destruction of idols”…[1]

He is right, of course. Human beings have always been drawn to idols, be they the Red Sox or the moon above. In fact, so prevalent is this tendency that we are right to return again to a consideration of why idolatry is so dangerous. And we are also right to ask whether or not Guinness and Seel, quoted by Merida above, are correct when they say that “believing communities” must have “an unswerving eye to the detection and destruction of idols.” Exodus 32:1-10 would answer, “Yes! They must!”

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Mark 13:14-27

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 13

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

As we approach the Table of the Lord this morning I am struck that our text is one of dark foreboding yet also exuberant joy. I am struck by this because, seen from a certain perspective, the symbols here on this table combine the very same elements: the dark foreboding of the violent death of Jesus on the cross at the hands of wicked men yet the exuberant joy that it was in this way that Christ won for us our salvation! Put another way, we are hereby reminded of the darkness of our sins and of the fallen world but only in order that we might proclaim the light of the coming of Jesus into the world and is death and resurrection.

Mark 13:14-27 is a text of darkness and light, of warning and hope, of bitter judgment and beautiful salvation. We have seen that the church stands in the time between the times: that time that is different from ordinary time because Christ has come and the Kingdom of God has broken into the world and is breaking into the world even now. This time between the times is the time between was has been and what will be. We live in the beginning of the end, a beginning end that might last another day or another two thousand years. We do not know. But something has changed now. The church has seen the glory come and coming. We await the coming of Christ who has come and will come again.

In our text, Jesus warns of greater darkness then heralds the victory of the light.

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Mark 13:1-13

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 13

1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

What would you do if you knew the world was about to end? Interestingly, there are numerous places online where some variation of this question has been asked. The comments are telling. Here’s a sampling:

I’d tell everyone who I know exactly how I feel about them. My crush, my brother, friends, everyone who I can contact within 24 hours

Play with my dog for as long as she wants to. Then pet her and hold her close.

I’m a man of simple tastes. I’d steal either a Nissan GT-R or a Porsche 911 Turbo.

I would drive away far away from the havoc that would definitely ensue with friends. I would chill with friends, kayak across that beautiful river I dreamed about kayaking on, hike on that mountain that looks like it has a beautiful view from the top, throw a party, spend the rest of my money on food, drinks and fun, get a bonfire going and chill with all the amazing people in my life and when the sun sets for the last time I’ll be watching it over the mountains with people I truly care about by my side.

Raid, pillage, and plunder to my hearts content. After all, only fools are certain.

get some beer, get some speakers, And sit on my roof drinking the lot whilst blasting out the AC-DC

I guess I’d do my laundry.

Make plans for the following day. Just in case.

And my favorite:

I would place my son in the specially-designed space capsule I have built ahead of time for just this occasion, even though the government and my peers thought me mad. My wife would wrap him in a red blanket with our family symbol on it. We would launch him toward a hospitable planet just as our planet exploded.

Ha! Somebody has seen Superman one too many times!

It is an interesting question, though, and one that is not without merit. What would you do if you knew the world was about to end?

Mark 13 is a chapter that has fascinated and perplexed interpreters over the years. It is a chapter in which Jesus talks about the end and instructs His disciples on how they, and we, should act in light of its approach.

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Mark 12:38-44

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 12

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Adolf Hitler once complained that Germany was an ostensibly Christian nation as opposed to a nation holding to a different religion. Here is what he said:

It’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?[1]

That is telling. Hitler preferred Japan’s exaltation of sacrificing for your country. He even preferred Islam. There was obviously something about it that he appreciated. But Christianity he deplored. Why? Because of its “meekness and flabbiness.” Christianity, you see, exalts the lowly and the weak. Christianity makes much of the unfortunate and those who lack power and strength. But what Hitler wanted was the uberman, the strong man, the man who knew what power was, and the Ubermensch, the master race.

Of course, Hitler was in so many ways simply repeating the mantras of Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote, “Christianity has taken the part of all the weak, the low, the botched; it has made an ideal out of antagonism to all the self preservative instincts of sound life”

Men who like the currency of power, men who like the language of strength, men who act in the theater of the pompous, these men despise Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. In particular, they despise passages like Mark 12:38-44.

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