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Mark 4: The Parables and the Storm

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Jesus often taught in parables, short, simple stories that illustrated deeper spiritual truths. Jesus’ parables dealt with topics familiar to His audience- seeds, pearls, wayward children, money, among others. The parables of Jesus still hold deep meaning 2,000 years later. Jesus’ parable of the sower as told in Mark chapter four is used to teach us about the mindset of the disciples.

Mark chapter four takes place early in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has chosen His twelve disciples. The crowds were also starting to follow Jesus at this point.

“And He began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.” (Mark 4:1, KJV).

Beginning in verse three, Jesus tells the parable of the sower (this parable is also found in Matthew 13:1-5 and Luke 8:4-10). I’ll summarize the parable to discuss one aspect and how it related to the disciples. Jesus taught a sower went out to sow seed and the seed landed by the wayside, stony ground, among thorns, and good ground. The seed by the wayside was eaten by birds, the seed on the stony ground quickly sprang up, but died out just as quickly, the thorns choked out the seed, and the seed on the good ground brought a harvest. However, Jesus did not explain the deeper meaning of the parable to the crowd, simply saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9, KJV).

Jesus was alone with the disciples and they asked Him what the parable of the sower meant. Jesus explained that the sower sowing the word of God (the seed) and the types of ground represented how different people respond to the hearing of the God’s word. Jesus took the time to teach other parables to the disciples.

Let’s take a look at the seed that fell on the stony ground.

“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time; afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:16-18, KJV).

Later that same day, Jesus told the disciples to journey to the other side of the sea. While on their journey, a storm came up on the water. We know at least four disciples- Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen by trade and possibly experienced storms on the water, but they did not respond like experienced fishermen. The disciples were acting like the seed sown on the stony ground, as they began to be fearful and lose hope.

The disciples found Jesus asleep during the storm, but they woke Him up.

“Master carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38, KJV).

Just like the seed on the stony ground, the disciples were going through affliction (the storm) and became offended at Jesus. “How can you sleep at a time like this. We’re going to die! Do you even care?” Keep in mind, even in the early days of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples had witnessed miracles and heard the same teachings as the crowds, but the word had yet to fall onto that good soil, where these men would take the Gospel and take Jesus’ teachings far and wide.

Even when we don’t heed God’s words as we should, God is still merciful to us. God loves us and helps us in the midst of the worst of storms.

“And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39,KJV).

Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, but I believe that this storm was a turning point for the disciples. I believe that some of that seed had found its way from the stony ground onto the good soil, where it reaped a harvest that is still being reaped this very day.

As each of us face our own storms in life, allow God’s word to become deeply rooted in your spirit; so that we may be like Christ, having peaceful rest during the storm. God bless you.

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The Angel Among the Myrtle Trees

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The Old Testament book of Zechariah contains perhaps the most Messianic prophecies among the Minor Prophets (minor in terms of amount written, not importance). The first eight chapters of Zechariah contain visions concerning such topics as the restoration of post-exile Israel, the restoration of the priesthood, and the coming of the Messiah, to name a few. I will attempt to study Zechariah’s vision found in Zechariah 1:8-17.

If we were to place a date on Zechariah’s ministry, he received his call during the reign of Darius (Zechariah 1:1), around November 520 B.C. The first of Zechariah’s eight visions came three months later (Zechariah 1:7).

“I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.” (Zechariah 1:8, KJV).

The color red throughout the Bible represents blood, as in bloodshed, whether through war or Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The Book of Revelation portrays Christ on a white horse, symbolozing purity and victory. Thus, the man on the red horse is a preincarnate Christ, who will conquer sin and the nations, and ultimately bring peace to Israel, as our text later explains.

The myrtle trees are also significant, as the myrtle tree is an evergreen/bush, which gives off a fragrant aroma. The fact that the myrtle trees are in a bottom (valley or hollow), symbolizes beauty and restoration coming out of a low, valley experience (Israel’s seventy year exile to Babylon).

Zechariah then asked for clarification of his vision: “Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will show thee what these be. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.” (Zechariah 1:9-10, KJV).

This group of men are angels sent by God to patrol the earth. The angel of the Lord who stood among the myrtle trees was the commanding officer so to speak, and gave their report.

“And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” (Zechariah 1:11, KJV).

The world, or the world’s system is at rest, while Israel seeks to restore their nation to its previous state. The angel of the Lord intercedes for Israel: “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?”(Zechariah 1:12, KJV).

The term “Lord of hosts” is a military term and always refers to God. The threescore and ten years is 70 years (a score is 20 years), or the length of the Exile. If you look at how the other angels spoke with the angel who stood among the myrtle trees and how that same angel interceded for God’s people, we can state that the angel is the preincarnate Christ, who is praying to God the Father on behalf of His people. (See also Romans 8:34).

“And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.”(Zechariah 1:13, KJV).

Next, the preincarnate Christ gives Zechariah a prophetic message for the people:

“So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” (Zechariah 1:14-15, KJV).

God used the nations to execute judgment on Israel’s unrepentant sin, but now God will punish the nations, who are at ease and peace in their sins. This I believe is comprable to the world system of today and how the world has grown at ease with sin and wickedness, yet the Lord’s judgment is coming.

God promises the restoration of Jerusalem, the temple, and prosperity: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities though prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 1:16-17, KJV).

No matter the valleys or exiles we face in our own lives, we can take comfort in God’s Word. God will restore us when we repent of our sins. When we turn to the Lord, he will replace the stench of death and sin, with beauty and the fragrant aroma of our salvation.

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But God

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But. A three letter word that means, “Ignore everything I just said.”

“You’re a great guy and all, but I think of you more as a friend.”

“Your resume and qualifications are impressive, but we have decided to go in a different direction.”

“Dinner was great, but it could have used more seasoning.”

We don’t like to hear “but,” because we know rejection or a backhanded compliment is soon to follow. However, there are times when hearing but can be a good thing. The world will judge you by your past, appearance, mistakes, and anything else their crooked, pointy fingers can find, but when we place our faith in Christ, God accepts us as we are. “But God” is a beautiful phrase found in Scripture.

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah”

(Psalm 49:15, KJV).

“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

(Psalm 73:26,KJV).

“But God raised him [Jesus] from the dead.” (Acts 13:30, KJV).

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, KJV).

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart thatform of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17, KJV).

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is commonto man: but Godis faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, KJV).

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” (Ephesians 2:4-5, KJV).

As you go about your days, be blessed and may the Lord keep you.

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The Missing NIV Verses-Mark

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This post is the second in a series comparing the King James Version (KJV) and the missing or altered verses in the New International Version (NIV). I will place the verses side-by-side and describe what has been left out and why it is so important.

Mark 6:11 (KJV) “11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Mark 6:11 (NIV) “11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

The context of Mark 6:11 details Jesus sending out His disciples to preach the Gospel. Jesus is warning His disciples that not everyone will receive or accept the message of Christ. Jesus is reminding the disciples that God’s judgment will fall on anyone who has rejected the Gospel. Jesus is using Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate the severity of God’s judgment for those who reject Him. The only way we can escape God’s judgment is by placing our faith in Christ.

Mark 7:15-16 (KJV) “15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Mark 7:15 (NIV) “15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are many words God and the inspired writers use to emphasize their points. In Mark 7:16, Jesus says “If any man have ears to hear; let him hear,” as a way to get the audience to focus in on His words. In context, Jesus is speaking against outward, religious shows of piety- dressing a certain way, eating or not eating specific foods, saying all of the right things, following rituals and not working on the inner person. We can do and say all of the right things on the outside, but it will never change us from within our spirits. If we focus inwardly- on our hearts, our thoughts, our behaviors, then we will make the necessary changes. Jesus doesn’t want rituals, He wants us to have a dynamic spiritual life.

Mark 9:43-46 (KJV) “43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy footoffend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

Verses 44 and 46 are quotations from Isaiah 66:24, which discusses the punishment of the wicked. The full quote in context is: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die; neither shall their fire be quenched ;and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24, KJV).

Mark 9:43, 45 (NIV) “43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell,where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.”

Once again, the NIV is downplaying the reality and severity of hell and God’s judgment.

Mark 11:24-26 (KJV) “24 Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Mark 11:24-25 (NIV) “24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believed that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Jesus in verse 26 of the King James text is describing the end consequence of unforgiveness- that God will not forgive our trespasses if we don’t forgive others. If we live our lives with continual hate and unforgiveness, our Christian walk, our prayer life, and our effectiveness for the kingdom will be hampered. The NIV explains that we need to forgive others, but by eliminating verse 26, the why, i.e. the end consequence is omitted, which could deeply affect someone’s relationship with God.

Mark 15:27-28 (KJV) “27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. 28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.”

Mark 15:27 (NIV) “27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.”

Once again, the NIV text has eliminated a prophecy from Isaiah, this time it’s Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (KJV).

These Last Days present challenges for all believers and we must remain strong in our faith. We must stand for truth and be discerning for false teachings and doctrines which creep into our Bibles and pulpits. Please remain alert and vigilant. God bless.

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I Look Out into the World

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By Michael W. Raley

I look out into the world

And I see the rage,

The violence,

The hatred,

The deception,

The fiery rhetoric,

And my soul is overwhelmed.

I pray and I hope

For a better tomorrow,

Yet I wonder if the time for reasoning,

Accountability, and deep soul searching has past.

For the longest time,

When I looked out into the world, I felt a detachment,

Not realizing maybe I should be the one to change.

When I looked inside of me and my spirit,

I realized much work still needed to be done.

If I focused on changing myself,

The world would change as well.

I can’t change world events,

But I can change myself and my responses,

Thus, changing my perspective

When I look out into the world.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

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Thousands of thoughts course through our minds each and every day. Some thoughts can be routine, such as What am I going to eat for lunch? or I need to get the car in for an oil change. However, thoughts can be a destructive force when dwell upon the negative, the resentful, and the angry.

I’ll never be successful.

How can anybody love me?

I’m a failure.

How could she do that to me?

I’ll never forgive myself/him/her.

The list goes on and on.

Have you ever found yourself in a thought cycle of negativity? How did you respond? If you suffer from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, does negativity thinking make it worse? The truth be told, you didn’t gain anything from the negative thoughts other than the loss of an opportunity to enjoy life.

The more you look around the more you notice how society gears us toward the negative. The continuous negativity of the news cycle, the gritty and violent nature of popular entertainment, and even religion, which tells us we are all fundamentally flawed, in combination with our own life circumstances overwhelms us into thinking we will never crawl out of this mental and spiritual abyss.

As a Christian and as someone who lives with depression, anxiety, and multiple chronic illnesses, I find my thoughts swirling down the drain so to speak. I have dealt with thoughts of resentment and anger over circumstances while I fumed at myself for putting myself into that situation. I believe Christ has forgiven me of my sins, but I have a hard time letting go of my mistakes.  My inability to forgive myself is my thought struggle. What’s yours? So, what are some practical ways that we can overcome these constant negative thoughts?

Eliminate the “Woulda, Shoulda, Couldas”

As the cliche goes, “Hindsight is twenty twenty.” Ah,the past. “If I know then what I know now, I would have done this.” “I should’ve seen this coming.” “I could have done it differently. We must understand the past is gone. We can’t do anything about it. Doc Brown and his DeLorean aren’t showing up, neither is Doctor Who and the Tardis. We have to cut ourselves some slack here. We made a decision based on the information we had at the time. If we had different information, yes, we probably would have chosen differently, but that’s not the case. We can only go forward from here.

Focus on what you can control

We can’t pick our circumstances. We can’t manipulate people into doing the right thing according to us. We had no control over the country or family into which we were born. The only thing we can choose is how we respond to the events around us. Our responses can help determine how we overcome the obstacles we face. The best way to dealing with events is to look at what is directly in our control and don’t worry about what is not in our control.

Temper your expectations

There are things in life we just expect or assume to be true. For example, we may believe that life should always treat us fairly. We may believe that people should always do the right thing. We may think that if we dedicate our lives to God, then our lives should be free from pain and suffering. If you have lived for any significant amount of time, we know that we cannot live by these assumptions. Life is not fair. People can’t be counted on to do the right thing because some people’s ideas of right and wrong are different from yours. Finally, following God does not guarantee a bed of roses. Jesus said to take up your cross, not exactly an east feat. Tempering your expectations does not mean to walk around hopeless and cynical, but be realistic in how you view the world and people. If we understand that the best laid plans can go awry, then we are better prepared to handle problems as they arise.

This is not a complete list by far, but I hope this helps you throughout your day. God bless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biblical Significance of 40

Numbers. Data. Statistics. The Bottom Line. Whatever you want to call it, information plays a significant role in our lives. From this information, trends can be identified and used in an attempt to predict patterns, spending habits, the state of the global economy and so on and so forth. However, when we delve deeper into a biblical study of numbers, there are interesting patterns which develop as the same numbers emerge in different texts.

A well-known biblical number to believers and non-believers alike is 666. Jesus had twelve disciples. There were twelve tribes of Israel. The Gospel of John records seven “I am” statements of Jesus, which confirm His divinity. God rested on the seventh day. Bible prophecy discusses seven-headed beasts, and numerous other creatures. Another interesting biblical number is the number forty.

As of this posting, I am celebrating my fortieth birthday. I took a look earlier this week at the significance of forty in the Bible.

*The rain of the Flood lasted forty days and forty nights.

*Isaac was forty when he married Rebekah.

*Israel had forty years of peace after Gideon conquered the Midianites.

*Eli judged Israel for forty years.

*Goliath challenged the Israelites for forty days until he was defeated by David.

*David and Solomon each ruled Israel for forty years.

*Elijah spent forty days traveling and fasting before encountering God on Mount Horeb.

*The twelve spies sent out by Moses returned after forty days.

*Jesus fasted and was tempted by Satan for forty days.

*Jesus appeared with His disciples for forty days after His resurrection.

Moses

The life of Moses serves as an interesting side note to our study of the number forty. The Bible tells us that Moses lived to be 120 years old. In fact, we can break down Moses’ story into three distinct forty-year increments.

*Moses spent his first forty years as a Prince of Egypt.

*Moses lived the next forty years in Midian, where he married, had children, and was a shepherd.

*Moses was 80 when he encountered God at the burning bush and led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

*Moses spent forty days and nights on Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments.

*Moses led the Israelites forty years in the wilderness, where they ate manna the whole time.

From this brief study, we can see that forty typically represents a number of trial and breakthrough. Moses emerged as a deliverer forty years of exile. David was victorious over the giant who taunted Israel’s army. The corruption of Eli and his sons led to God speaking to the young Samuel, who would become the last Judge of Israel. Jesus overcame temptation, Satan, and death. We will certainly have our rough stretches during our forty day and forty year periods, but we must not lose heart. In one form of another, victory will come. Whenever a trial comes, it is an opportunity to learn. Just as one meal from an angel gave Elijah the strength to go on for forty days, so to can our wisdom and strength carry us through whatever we are facing. You can be delivered. You can overcome. You defeat your giant. God bless you all.