Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Overview and Message of Exodus

Exodus Chart

Message of the Book of Exodus

God is the Sovereign Ruler who saves and liberates people who respond to His gracious provision of redemption and instruction, so that they can be in His presence, and serve, worship and obey Him.

  1. God is the sovereign ruler of all creation. He is the ultimate authority and has all power.
  2. God provides salvation (blessing, freedom, instruction) to humanity but it must received by faith.
  3. Exodus shows how God reveals Himself to people to bring them into relationship with Him (salvation).

Monday, November 12, 2018

Devotional: Facing Our Own Inadequacy: Mark 14:53-72

Mark 14.53-72 outline

The rest of chapter 14 looks at Jesus’ trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Mark frames the trial within an account of Peter’s “trial” before the servants of the high priest to contrast Jesus’ faithful response to Peter’s denial and cursing of Jesus. Jesus is seen to be much more (Son of God, Messiah, the Son of Man who shares power with YHWH) than anyone expected, while Peter and the Jewish leaders have their inadequacies, blasphemies and evil exposed. Peter’s pledges of fidelity to Jesus are revealed as empty boasts and the Jewish leadership is exposed as self-righteous, selfish power-seekers. The only difference between Peter and those that punched and insulted Jesus is that Peter, when he came face to face with his own inadequacy, recognized what he had done and broke down in tears.

The big issue in Jesus trial is his identity. The Sanhedrin cannot get their false witnesses to agree on the charges they they want to bring, temple destruction, so they focus in on Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. Ironically, God will allow the temple to be destroyed because these very leaders failed to recognize who Jesus was. At the trial, for the first time, Jesus publicly reveals himself as the Messiah, but he expands that idea far beyond what they were expecting. He knew here that their wrong, shortsighted views of what a Messiah should do would lead to the cross and accomplish God’s real plan to save the world.

This highlights the issue we all face when we are confronted with the claims of Jesus: Who is He? The Jewish leaders inadequate view of Jesus led them to oppose him, which destroyed the nation. Peter’s inadequate view of Jesus led him to rely on his own strength and deny Jesus. The other disciples were no different as they dispersed and abandoned Jesus. It is easy to understand why they saw Jesus this way. Jesus’ claim to be equal with YHWH is a big claim and went way beyond what everyone expected the Messiah to be. Perhaps the disciples should have seen it after three years living with Jesus, but God had a bigger evidence in store for them. Jesus had predicted that his claim would be verified when he rose from the dead. It was only when the disciples saw Jesus for who he really was that they would be able to see accurately their own needs and find them met in Jesus.

The main reason that we fail to see ourselves accurately is that we fail to see Jesus accurately. We are not adequate to be what we are created to be without that intimate contact and relationship with God. Jesus is the one who provides that. He is the temple, built without hands, where we meet God. Peter came face to face with his own inability at that trial in the courtyard and walked away broken and hopeless. Thankfully, Jesus is more than Peter thought. The risen Jesus would restore Peter and make him part of the apostolic foundation of the church. Like him, Jesus forces us to admit our own inadequacy. But, also like with Peter, Jesus still lives to forgive, even the one that cursed him, and enables a life that goes beyond what is humanly possible. We can’t. But he always can.

Friday, November 09, 2018

On the Road: Our Upcoming Speaking Schedule


Joyce and I are on the road again. We are thankful that this time we are not on the road to see the doctor. This weekend we are headed to Ashland Oregon to speak this Sunday morning at Ashland Bible Church. This will be the first time I have preached in a church service since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. It’s a big step for us and we are excited to be doing this again. Below is our upcoming speaking schedule. We would love to speak, share or teach in your church, Bible study, missions meeting etc. You can email me at dowen@piu.edu to set up a time.

  1. November 11: Ashland Bible Church, Ashland Oregon; AM Service
  2. December 2: Gateway Bible Church, Scotts Valley California, DCL Meeting
  3. December 9 Camino Bible Church, Camino California, AM Service
  4. December 30 Gateway Bible Church, Scotts Valley California, AM Service

Devotional: Be Ready For The Gethsemane Moment, Mark 14:32-52

Mark 14.32-52 outline

After Jesus’ Passover meal with this disciples, he took them to Gethsemane which was their customary place to get away, rest and pray. In this section, Mark contrasts the response of Jesus to the coming crisis of his death to that of the disciples. Jesus, in tune with the Father, knew what was coming while the disciples, still blind to the will of the Father, were oblivious. Jesus, knowing his need for strength and support, calls his friends to watch and pray with him, while the disciples, sure of their own sufficiency, sleep. When the crisis comes Jesus handles it with quiet faith in the Father’s plan, a willingness to face persecution without resorting to violence or revenge, and faces his betrayers and killers with a courage that comes from a deep commitment to and understanding of his mission from God. The disciples respond with confusion, fear, useless violence, and end up running in every direction except the right one and fade away into the night. They had not listened carefully to Jesus and so they were not ready for the crisis when it came.

Mark presents a very human Jesus to us in Gethsemane. He provides the example of how we are to respond to persecution and betrayal. Thus, Jesus’ godly response will lead to the redemption and restoration of, not only his blind and sleeping disciples, but also that of his persecutors, deniers and killers. He approaches the Father in the crisis as he trained his disciples to pray: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” But even as he prayed for deliverance, he was also willing to face the worst this world could deal out if that was the Father’s plan. This provides the model for how are to handle sickness, difficulty, trials, betrayals, pain and anything else we must face. The cry of lament (all through the Old Testament) and appeal for relief is not a lack of faith, but a result of deep faith that trusts a good God to accomplish his plan in a chaotic, sinful world. Jesus understood his dependence on the Father, lived a life of prayer and so, was ready for the crisis when it came.

The disciples, especially Peter, had continued to insist on their own agenda for Jesus, had insisted that they were able to serve Jesus in their own strength and thus failed to hear what he had been saying over and over. This is why Jesus points to Simon (not Peter, the “rock” yet”) and says, “Aren’t you strong enough to watch for one hour!” Peter and the others had not yet learned to depend on God to overcome the weakness of their human flesh. We are no different than they are. The essence of temptation is to get us to trust in our own sufficiency, follow our own plan and pursue self fulfillment. Jesus was ready because he was a man of prayer and he was a man of prayer because even he knew he needed the Spirit's power and insight.

Thus it appeared that all was lost. Jesus was taken into custody. The disciples were scattered and powerless. It seemed that the betrayers and killers had won. But Jesus could face this crisis the way he did because he knew the Father and he knew the Father’s plan would even defeat death.. We can be ready too when crisis strikes, by following his example.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Devotional: What Do We Remember? Mark 14:12-31

Mark 14.12-31 outline

The next section recounts Jesus’ Passover celebration with his disciples. It actually would not have been much of a celebration for them because Jesus again uses the meal to announce his death, the betrayal of Judas, and the denial by all the disciples. Mark again uses his typical “sandwich” method of presentation as he brackets Jesus’ explanation of the new covenant and new community that will be inaugurated by his death and resurrection, with his two predictions of denial and betrayal by his closest friends. While this must have horrified and surprised the twelve (indicating that they still were not listening and did not understand what Jesus was all about), Jesus words and actions show that he knew exactly what we was doing and what would happen. This was God’s plan from before the beginning and Jesus was giving his life willingly, as the Passover lamb, to become the ultimate sacrifice to defeat the greatest enemy and liberate his people from sin and death. Jesus was in control of the situation and would work through even through the disciples’ weakness (14:28) to create a new community based on the forgiveness and new life created by his poured out blood and broken body.

It was a custom at the Passover meal for someone to ask about the meaning of the meal. Jesus uses this opportunity to explain the new meaning and the new kingdom community his death and resurrection would create. Just as the original Passover sacrifice created the nation of Israel out of slaves, the sacrifice of Jesus would free humankind from sin, death and evil, create the church as a new community of Christ followers and unite them, by the indwelling Spirit, into a people that images Christ as his “body” until he returns. The Lord’s Supper would replace the Passover as the celebration of this new age; a cosmic day of liberation. It is interesting that Jesus chooses the bread rather than the meat of the Passover as the symbol of his body. This time the sacrifice is complete and does not need to be repeated. The bread symbolizes the indwelling Christ who binds the new community together and empowers it for service. The wine symbolizes the blood that is poured out to bring us into intimate relationship with God. Just as the disciples distributed the bread which Jesus multiplied to the four and five thousand, we are now empowered by Christ, as we “eat the bread” and “drink the blood” of covenant commitment to distribute Jesus and his blessings to the world.

The disciples still did not get it. Like Peter they all thought they could this in their own power. Peter pridefully compares his own commitment to the other disciples and receives the rebuke of Jesus. But even with the rebuke Jesus anticipates the forgiveness made possible by his death and resurrection as he says, “after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” The disciples will learn that it is only through intimate connection with Jesus, made possible by his sacrifice and the indwelling Spirit, that we can have fellowship with and serve God. We are dependent every moment on Jesus and what he has done.  This is what we must remember every time we take the bread and the cup.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Devotional: It’s Easy to be a Judas, Mark 14:1-11

Mark 14.1-11 outline

Mark 14 begins the climax of the Gospel of Mark. Mark has presented Jesus all through the book as God come in the flesh to serve his people and rescue them from their slavery to sin and all its consequences, ultimately death. He has also presented the surprising response to this amazing revelation of God: outright hostility from the leaders of the nation, misunderstanding of his mission by those who should have got it (the disciples), and the proper response of absolute trust from those from whom it would be least expected; Gentiles, women, blind men, outcasts and even the demonized. We see this presentation again in verses 1-11 as Mark sandwiches the extravagant response of an anonymous woman to Jesus and his message (3-9) between two accounts (1-2, 10-11) of the Jewish leaders and Judas plotting to kill Jesus. Judas, and the other disciples, illustrate how easy it is to let other things come between us and Jesus which can lead to betraying him. The woman illustrates the high level of commitment required to be a follower of Jesus as she did everything she could.

The Jewish leaders, Judas, and the guests who complained about the woman’s “waste” of good perfume show how easy it is to miss what God is doing in the world right in front of you. Over and over Jesus has been teaching that their understanding of what the Messiah is there to do is flawed. He has explicitly taught that he must be crucified before he comes into his glory. Whether the woman fully understood or not, she has made the proper response, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. The Jewish leaders missed this because they were concerned about protecting the current traditional religious system. Judas missed it because he was concerned to profit from it. All involved here had most likely convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing and had God’s approval. We need to realize that we are prone to the same kind of rationalization. The only remedy is to do what God the Father commanded the three disciples at the Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

In contrast, the woman did the right thing at the right time. Like the poor widow at the temple collection box (12:44) she gave all she had to Jesus. Jesus is not saying here that the needs of the poor can be ignored. But, love for Jesus will motivate us to do "a beautiful thing” to him and have impact “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world.” This will send, and has sent, Jesus’ followers into all the world to do all they can to take Jesus into the homes of “lepers” (14:3) to meet their spiritual and physical needs. This was Jesus’ mission and should be ours too.

Finally, Mark has placed the passion story in the context of the feast of the Passover. Just as God liberated the nation of Israel from Egypt with a sacrifice, he would now liberate the whole world from sin and death. But it is so counter to the way we usually think that is easy to miss it and think we are serving God when we are betraying him  We must listen carefully to Jesus and respond by giving everything we have and doing everything we can do. Then we will have a memorable part to play in that great mission.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Devotional: When the World Seems to Crumble, Mark 13:24-37

Mark 13.24-37 outline

In Mark 13:1-23 Jesus is mainly predicting the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem that would take place in 70AD. In verse 24 he changes his focus to a time “after that tribulation,” when the Son of Man would come “in clouds with great power and glory.” (26) The disciples had thought that those two events would happen in quick succession but Jesus taught that the destruction of the temple would happen before “this generation” would “pass away” (30), but “no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (32) when the Son of Man would return. The specific prophecy would encourage Jesus’ followers to trust his word (31) when the world they knew fell apart with the destruction of Jerusalem. It also encourages us to trust Jesus’ promise about his return. It will be fulfilled just as surely as was his prophecy about the temple.

Verses 24-27 describe what will happen when Jesus returns. In this context, the darkening of the sun and moon  and the falling of the stars refers to the overthrow of all the worldly and cosmic powers. The spiritual and political powers that dominate and oppress God’s people will be “shaken” from their places and removed. Jesus will judge the world and set things right for his people. The service and sacrifice (34) we do in this age will be rewarded and we will see that the suffering and difficulties we face now were only preparation for sharing in Jesus’ “power and glory.”

The “lesson of the fig tree” ties the two events together. The Jewish church could have been devastated when Jerusalem was destroyed, but they were not because they knew it was coming. They were “on guard” (23) because Jesus had told them beforehand. This has been true throughout history. When the world crumbles around God’s people they know that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (31) Whether our civilization crumbles because of invasions of Romans, barbarians, Islam, Vikings, communism or secularism we know that Jesus is at the door and his kingdom will continue until he returns.

Jesus closes the chapter with the parable of the doorkeeper and returns to the theme of the chapter: “Be watchful.” How do we do that? While the master is gone we must be doing the work he has assigned to us. Our waiting must be active and vocal. When the world seems to be crumbling around us we don’t withdraw into our own world and hide until we are rescued. We continue to meet the needs of God’s people, serve the communities in which he has placed us, return good for evil and we boldly announce the message of Jesus’ kingdom. Then, when the master returns, our crumbling world will be replaced with a kingdom which “cannot be shaken,” a world set right, an eternity in the presence of God. .So, “stay awake.”  It will all be worth it.