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an-upper-room
July 28th, 2015 by rodcostner

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

Mark 14:12-16

Jesus was a Jew who observed Passover. The Lamb of God celebrated the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt and the sparing of first-born males in homes where the blood of a lamb had been placed on the door frame. The amount of preparation that Jesus commissioned for the Passover is more evidence of the great importance He placed on keeping Old Testament commandments. I wonder if, at the time, any of the men present had an appreciation for the cosmic significance of what took place in that upper room?

We often neglect preparation and take our relationship with God for granted. We give God whatever we can throw together in the way of worship and prayer and service, but then we wonder why we are not experiencing this powerful spiritual journey. Whether we are praying at home in a solitary place or worshiping with other believers – we need to prepare to meet with God. We live in a world that celebrates disorder and irreverence.  It does not take much thought at all to be irreverent – you just have to act without decency or humility. Reverence is related to a healthy fear of God. It is a good thing to fear God. I have a relationship with my Heavenly Father and He loves me, but he is not like one of my buddies on the softball field. Unfortunately, generation after generation is learning that reverence is never good or genuine. In a world that celebrates decadence and vulgarity, we must remember that we are foreigners and we must think and live differently.

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alabaster box of ointment
July 27th, 2015 by rodcostner

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Mark 14:1-11

I was once meeting with a group of leaders at a small church and I said something along the lines of, “Tell me something you would like to see this church accomplish.” There was a brief pause and then one of the leaders said, “We have always wanted to get a hand rail mindsetinstalled on the front steps.” I felt like I had asked, “What does 2 plus 2 equal?” and someone had answered, “Jello.” It was a matter of mindset.

In today’s passage, we encounter a broad spectrum of mindsets.

The chief priests and teachers were scheming and wanted to murder Jesus. They were so spiritually dead and mired in sin that they no longer had a conscience.

Simon the Leper had invited Jesus into his home. Had Jesus healed this man of leprosy?

The complainers had so little spiritual depth that the woman’s act was incomprehensible to them. They considered her act of worship a “waste.” They “rebuked her harshly” for what she had done for Jesus.

Jesus, who saw a deep spiritual significance behind her act – preparing Him for burial. Contrary to current thinking, Jesus also showed that social justice is not his only concern. Jesus cares deeply about the daily needs of the poor and needy, but He also cares deeply about spiritual truth and growth. Jesus also looks for our worship and devotion.

Judas saw an opportunity to exploit the situation. For 3 years, Judas had experienced life with Jesus and a group of disciples, but Judas’ heart did not truly belong to Jesus. There will always be those in and around the church only to exploit the church.

The woman was so filled with complete devotion to Jesus that she poured out her treasure as an act of worship.

The others judged the right or wrong of the woman’s act. It was like Jesus and the woman were on a completely different and higher plain. Growing spiritually is evidenced by an ever-increasing level of devotion. Those with that type of devotion also experience increased clarity about right and wrong and increased strength from the Holy Spirit to do the right and avoid the wrong. Holy living can only be birthed out of a holy devotion.

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Second-Coming-of-Christ-960x250
July 24th, 2015 by rodcostner

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Mark 13:32-37

1. The word “rapture” never appears in the Bible.

2. Books upon books have been written elaborating on a doctrine that you would have to strain to contend is even implied by Scripture.

3. Trees or Forests? Trees or Forests? The emphasis of Jesus’ words is two part: (1) No one knows when He will return and judgment will begin (2) Be ready.

4. The Bible does not teach multiple second comings. Scripture declares that Jesus will return once and time will stop. Then there will be a “general judgment” (everyone will be judged at once). There are not separate judgments for the saved and the lost. Yes, we will meet Him in the air – just not in multiple installments!

5. We take things that are clear and simple and make them complicated and confusing. Additionally, we try to conform Scripture to our desired outcome. It is really just not that hard: Jesus returns. The living and the dead are judged. It does not matter if you are in Ohio or Palestine. It does not matter whether you are Native American or Asian, Jew or Gentile. The only thing that matters is that you have truly accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord.

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black-sun
July 23rd, 2015 by rodcostner

20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[c]

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Mark 13:20-31

Today’s passage contains statements that are difficult for me to integrate into my theological perspective . Therefore, I am going to focus on the principle I use for understanding difficult Bible passages and just a couple of statements made by Jesus.

Whenever I encounter a Scripture verse or passage that seems inconsistent with the rest of Scripture and/or the character of God – I suspend judgment. I continue to try to understand it, but I accept the fact that, in this world, I may never understand it. I dig deeper and learn more about the context in which the statement was made or event occurred, and sometimes it becomes more clear to me. There are other times when, after much effort and study, it just does not make sense to me. If someone else asks me about the passage, my response is, “I’m not sure – I am still trying to figure that one out for myself.” We live by trust and faith and that means we do not have and will never have all the answers. If an instructor tells you that he completely understands every detail of The Revelation, I would find a new teacher.

Difficult point 1: 20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. In Christian theology, the term “election” refers to the selection of those who will receive eternal life (“the elect”) or eternal damnation. There are two basic camps regarding this doctrine. Calvinists (Reformed) believe in unconditional election. This means that when you were born, God had already predestined you to be saved or not and nothing can change that destiny. Wesley-Arminians believe in conditional election. This means that salvation is a product of man’s free will cooperating with God’s grace. The most significant aspect of conditional election being that all men and women have an opportunity to choose Christ and be saved. This analogy might not hold up under intense scrutiny, but think of it as a marriage: I chose my wife, but she still had to also choose me.

Difficult point 2: 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. The difficulty with this passage is that Jesus seems to be saying that the apostles would still be alive at the time of His second coming. The doctrinal dilemma is complicated by the fact that the Book of Acts and letters of Paul reveal the post-resurrection Apostles as men who believed Christ’ return to be imminent. Let me repeat, “I am not sure.” That being said, Jesus may have been alluding to His disciples being alive when the signs appeared. The following verses contain elements of the warning signs:

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e]went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:51-54

 

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46

Remember: the essence of faith is trusting, even when you do not have all of the answers.

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Events-in-Revelation2
July 22nd, 2015 by rodcostner

14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter,19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.

Mark 13:14-18

In 167 BC, the Roman king Antiochus Epiphanes set up a statue of Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem (the second one which was built under Herod) and sacrificed pigs on the altar. To some, this event is the “abomination that causes desolation.” Others believe that Jesus referred to the event in AD 70 when the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem.  During this siege, over one million Jews dies and the second temple was destroyed. Still, others believe that Jesus was referring to the future attacks of anti-Christian powers and forces that would take place against God’s people just before the end of time and the Day of Judgment.

I have no idea when Christ will return. I do know that with each rising of the sun we are one day closer. Many believers, especially Americans, have been strongly influenced by a Premillenial interpretation of The Revelation. This approach leads to attaching specific prophecies to specific historical events. Additionally, specific symbols are attached to specific world figures or empires.There is a lot of talk about dragons and bears, Russia and the Catholic Church. It is all good fun and makes for some really colorful charts (I not only reject the theology, but also the cheesiness of the chart above this post) . The problem is that this approach is hellbent (pun sort of intended) on missing the forest for the trees.

Here is all you need to know: Toward the end, God’s children are going to go through some very difficult times. Various governmental, military, cultural and religious powers will serve as vehicles for Satan’s attack against God’s people. In the end, Jesus will prevail and those who have remained faithful will spend eternity in heaven with God, the hosts of heaven and all those who know Christ.

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Rembrandt_st._peter_in_prision
July 21st, 2015 by rodcostner

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.

Mark 13:3-13

We always want signs and time frames. God blesses faith, but we want shortcuts. For some people, the point is to be ready at the right time. God’s plan is for us to be ready at any and all times. Walk with Jesus and live by faith and you do not need to worry about signs and times.

Jesus warns of those who will prey on people looking for signs. Many are going to come in Jesus’ name, but they will not be Jesus or even sent by Jesus. Those false messiahs will “lead many astray.” Wars, natural disasters, and famines are taking place all over the globe. More than anything – the leading astray is at epidemic proportions. You need to immediately dismiss it whenever someone begins a statement with, “Jesus said ________________, but…..” You need to walk away whenever someone opens with, “The Bible says _________________, but….” Jesus is fully capable of saying exactly what He means and the Bible is a lot more clear than liberal theologians would have you believe.

Verses 9-13 are hard core. Jesus lays it out plain and simple. If you (disciples) remain true, you are going to be persecuted. You are going to suffer and be falsely accused. You are going to be hated because you refuse to compromise regarding the person, mission or message of Christ. I know my reformed brothers and sisters have embraced this scenario in which disciples get extracted before any of this unpleasantness takes palce, but that certainly is not consistent with the words of Jesus in this passage. We love happy endings. The good guys win. The guy gets the girl. In the cosmic battle between good and evil, The Revelation promises us that good eventually triumphs, but not before a lot of pain and suffering. This is why Jesus implores all of us to endure to the end.

 

The painting is St. Peter in Prison by Rembrandt.

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dna
July 20th, 2015 by rodcostner

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

At this point in my life, I think the church places way too much focus on buildings. If I was starting a new church plant I would almost certainly rent some empty business space, do a little remodeling and spend a lot more of the church’s resources on ministry, especially ministry to the poor. Jesus is not necessarily anti-building, but He is more into building God’s Kingdom and building up people. The world is rapidly changing and the church is being refined by fire. There is only one option for the church to continue to thrive: become organic. We are comfortable with the present paradigm (buildings, budgets and bureaucracy), but we must be committed to the knowledge that the end of this paradigm would not mean the end of the church. God used Paul to build the church through what I like to call guerrilla ministry. The battle plan was simply for small groups of believers to share their faith and the love of Christ. No buildings. No budgets. It was church as an organism instead of an organization.

Back to the story at hand. It is almost funny that, after 3 years of living with Jesus and seeing amazing things, the disciple who commented on the temple architecture thought Jesus would be impressed. Reminder: the temple was not even God’s idea – it was David’s idea. God gave the Israelites the plans for the Tabernacle – a mobile worship center (tent).

There is something much more important that Jesus was saying with His pronouncement of the temple’s destruction. Jesus was saying that all the things built by man would come to an end. The temple was symbolic of man’s efforts to earn God’s favor. Now, the only way to be reconciled to God was through faith in Christ His Son. Religion would come to an end and everything was going to be purified by fire. It is all going away and ultimately the only thing that will matter is the relationship that true worshipers have with the one true God.

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widows-mite1
July 17th, 2015 by rodcostner

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.[f] 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.”

Mark 12:41-44

This is another passage often misappropriated by people trying to justify their subpar stewardship. Many arrive at the wrong conclusion that it does not matter how much you give. That is not the point of Jesus’ words to His disciples. The Lord recognized the devotion, sacrifice and faith of the widow. The offerings of the rich required none of these attributes.  Perhaps, Jesus knew their hearts and that the rich were giving out of habit alone or to maintain some type of standing in the community – kind of like the people that go to “the church” in town to help their business. They gave a large sum, but proportionally it was not a significant percentage of their wealth. It took no faith; they had an abundance on which to live.

The widow demonstrated real faith. She seems to have given without any guarantee that she would have another means to support herself. Remember – there was no government program like welfare or social security. The widow’s offering was a demonstration of true worship. This type of total commitment was very uncommon around 30 AD and it is even more uncommon in 2015.

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leobar
July 16th, 2015 by rodcostner

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.”

Mark 12:38-40

If some people would invest as much effort in being spiritual as they invest in appearing to be spiritual, they would be able to move mountains. The word hypocrite basically means “actor.” Unfortunately, the scribes that Jesus dealt with were just actors in a drama designed to satisfy their own appetites at the expense of the very people in which they should have been investing their lives.

The scribes dressed to look the part. The long robes let everyone know they were VIP’s. They were also very big on titles and reverential salutations. The scribes made sure to sit in the best seats like present-day celebrities at a Knicks or Lakers game. Among their worst offenses was the way the scribes manipulated the court system and lined their own pockets with money syphoned from the poorest of the poor. They served as jurists and/or used their offices to purloin the property of poor widows. Finally, after having lived like calloused charlatans they iced the cake with long pretentious public prayers.

Jesus declared that a terrible judgment awaited them.

We must be careful that we do not look at the ever-present hypocrisy in this world and go too far to the other end of the spectrum. Wallowing blatantly and openly in sin with an “Aw shucks, God knows I’m a sinner” attitude is not an improvement on hypocrisy. In this life, we will not reach perfection, but we must be genuine.

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King-Jesus-On-The-Holy-Throne-In-Heaven-Picture-HD-Wallaper
July 15th, 2015 by rodcostner

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

Mark 12:35-37

The scribes originally began as a group of trained writers who created copies of The Torah, By the first century, the scribes were highly respected professionals who also interpreted and taught the Word of God to the people. With His question, Jesus exposed the spiritual shallowness of the scribes. The prophesied Messiah could not be both the Son of David and the Lord of David, unless there was a deeper meaning to Psalm 110 than that espoused by the scribes.

The rabbis and scribes were willing to tolerate Jesus as a rabbi or prophet, but the only way He could be both the Son of David and the Lord of David is by being the Son of God. Jesus was born to a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit: He is both God and man. The scribes were spiritually shutoff and could not see the beautiful truth that was right in from of them.

Today, there are many “scribes” who have diminished the deity of Jesus. They are more comfortable refashioning Jesus as a kind teacher and philosopher. They find miracles and apocalyptical pronouncements to be unseemly for their messiah. The problem is that the Bible does not make sense unless you accept the greatness of God and the breadth of His plan. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is a miracle Who performs miracles. Jesus is alive. Jesus is beyond our full comprehension. David was a great king, but Jesus is the King of all Kings!

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