Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 21 September 2015

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Mark 10, verses 39-40.

It’s been five years since my 25th high school reunion. Do the math and I’ve been out of school for thirty; duh.   There are times when I wish I could crawl up into a ball and go back to my hometown and just be a kid again.   I graduated from high school in a small town in southern Indiana where I had only lived for two years.   While there, I met my wife, made some life-long friends, grew up, learned about Jesus, and set myself on the path that I’m still walking today.   I thank God for every day I lived in Mitchell and the people there. Five years ago, I organized our class reunion.   Out of just over 120 graduates we had over 90 show up for the party.   That’s a pretty good number, and it was due to the hard work of everyone involved.

In those five years I’ve sometimes felt that I was going through hell.   In those five years I’ve also sometimes felt as if I was on top of a mountain and couldn’t be happier. I’d give anything to take back the bad things I’ve done, to un-hurt those I’ve hurt along the way.   But in that same time there has been so much more good.   I’m thankful for seeing my marriage rebuilt, my daughter married, my grandson being born, two of my kids graduating, and a hundred other things I could list without my smile fading a bit. And regrets?   Like Sinatra and Elvis, I have a few but, then again, too few to mention.

You see, I don’t let myself be obsessed by regret even though I’ve done things in life of which I’m ashamed and do regret. If you let yourself be defined by your sins then you miss the point of God’s grace.   What’s more, Jesus PROMISES us that life will be difficult, that there will be times of unspeakable pain on our path to eternal rest with Him. That path is part of what counts, mainly in how we use our talents, days and journey to reach other people with the message “Jesus is looking for you.”   You can’t live out that message if you wallow in ‘coulda woulda shoulda’ or regret. Verse 39 of guaranteed the Apostles that the world would extract a price in pain from each of them.   The same holds true for us.

Yet knowing that, I take great comfort in realizing that there are some things out of my control. Verse 40 says as much, stating to James and John that God is ultimately in control of everything and that He has places in mind for all of us. I need to be a good steward of my talents, time and treasure, but I don’t need to live wrapped around the axle about things over which I have no control.   God has appointed me for the life I live and He’s equipped me to live it fully, even when I mess up and always in His grace.

Happy anniversary, Class of 85.   Can’t believe it’s been 30 years but the best is still yet to come.

Lord, thank You for times to reminisce, for Your grace, for life experiences, and for today.

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 27 March 2015

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” Mark 6, verses 14-16.

Folks believe some really crazy stuff.   Have you ever considered that maybe some of it is real?

Consider these statements:   alar on apples will poison you.   Elvis eats lunch at a Burger King in Kalamazoo. A black man will never be elected president. If you play the Beatles’ White Album backwards, you hear messages from Satan. You can’t grow wine in Texas.

Which of those are true and which of them are flat out crazy? Truth is that all of them have been considered to be true by rational people not unlike ourselves. Some of those statements were true at one time but untrue now; some are just dumb or wacky (Elvis actually eats at KFC…).   Folks believe some crazy stuff.

So is it implausible that there’s this Jewish king named Herod who executes this great prophet (named John the Baptist) and there are those who are saying John has come back from death?   Put yourself in Herod’s shoes:   do you believe it or not?   Fact is, Herod didn’t really know what to believe.   Mark’s Gospel hasn’t gotten that far yet into describing Herod’s story; don’t worry, we’ll get there soon.

But poor Herod didn’t know what to believe.   He had John killed and now there are reliable sources – knowledgable people in whom Herod places his trust – who are telling him that John is back and bolder than ever.   You and I know now that it was Jesus about whom these folks were talking, but poor Herod didn’t know any better.

When you don’t know any better, you can believe in some really crazy stuff.   As we’ll see in the coming days, Herod was pretty nervous that his sins would come back to haunt him.   What he didn’t realize was how crazy things would soon get and how haunted he might become because of it.   Like I said, he didn’t know any better and the talk was just plain crazy.

So here’s a prayer to rock your world:   I pray you don’t know any better.   After all, it’s plum crazy to believe that there is this two thousand year old man named Jesus who said (and proved) that He was (and is) God.   The government of his day (including Herod) had him murdered because He was a threat to their status quo.   Two nights plus later this same Jesus comes back to life…and it turns out that He had promised to do exactly that.   What’s more, this Jesus spends the next few fortnights meeting hundreds, maybe thousands, of people all of whom will swear that He’s alive and well…just like He said He would be.

Folks believe some crazy stuff.   My hope for you is that you go a little crazy like that today.   Stretch your belief and believe in something your brain tells you must be impossible. Now go have an apple, listen to some old Elvis music (or even the White Album, but forward please), and enjoy a glass of Texas wine this weekend.

Lord, help me to be crazy for You.

Read Mark 6, verses 14-29.