Monday, September 21, 2009

Words of Encouragement

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. - Psalm 116:1-2

O PRAISE the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD. - Psalm 117

Praise and prayer. These two scriptures have been on my heart for the last week or so. I wanted to share it with you this week.

The first scripture tells us about the writer of this psalm. The psalmist writes that he loves the Lord and he says it is because he has experienced God's care of him. What is that care? When he sought God, God answered. I like the part where it says he inclined his ear towards him. This made me think about a small child calling out to his parent and the parent hearing that small voice even in the midst of noisiness and leaning down to where the child is to look him in the face and hear what he has to say. WOW!

Can you see that visually? God comes to where we are and no amount of "stuff" around us can keep him from hearing us and he knows are voices even in the midst of many voices. He comes close to us and he hears his child. The psalmist says then because of this, he will continually call upon the name of God.

So what is then required of us when we call upon God? The next psalm gives us our direction. We are to praise him because his truth is everlasting. This is a reminder that when we pray we are not to walk away from our prayers as if God did not hear us or that our prayers simply were words that were lost in the air. God inclines his ear so he hears all that you request of him.

Let us realize that prayer and praise goes together. We praise our Lord because of his truth that is everlasting. We have a hope and we should praise him even before we see the results of our prayers. Why should we praise him? Because while we may not have the answer yet, we have the assurance that God has already heard us and that his word is true. He promises to never leave us or forsake us.

Prayer: Lord we praise you name this day. We thank you for answering our prayers and our concerns. We are thankful and rejoice because you are a faithful God and your truth endures forever. Help us your people to rejoice always in all situations as we wait upon you. Amen.

The week in Review

The Image of God: Why Did God Create Me (part 5)?
Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams
December 11, 2008


Towner sums up with his comment, “We are God’s creatures and chosen partners in the work of the creation. We are given ever greater opportunity to be bearers of the divine image, that is, positive, responsible stewards in the world, until the day that God makes all things new.”
[1] Man was made in the image of God. This image is found in all humanity. Sin does not destroy the image of God nor does he lose it. However, sin does distort the image of God. The image is man’s ability to have a relationship with God. Sin changes that relationship from a loving one to a hostile one causing man to become God’s enemy. God’s love for mankind caused him to send Jesus so that man could be reconciled back into a right relationship. When man is reconciled to God, man can then live out the purpose for why he was created. Man was created to worship and have fellowship with God. Christ’s gift of the cross allows man to become more like the “son” and therefore to reflect more of the restored image within. Why did God create me? He created man to have a right, loving relationship. He created man to be his partner in the world as man creates more of his kind. That translates for the believer that God requires one to reflect the Son so that others can be drawn and in doing so they too can be restored to a right fellowship.

[1] Towner, “Clones of God,” 356.

The Week in Review

Study of the Synoptic Gospels - Mark Survey
Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams (12/07)

Observations: My overall observation of the book of Mark is that it reveals how Jesus, the Son of God accomplished setting up the kingdom of God. It was evident for all to see, it was only the hardening of the hearts that kept individuals from recognizing who Jesus was. I believe Mark makes a point to show the relationships between Jesus and those that come seeking from him. The overarching theme is what does faith look like? The book of Mark shows tenderness towards the individual like none of the other Gospels. Mark shows a narrative of Jesus’ walk from baptism to the cross, to illustrate a suffering discipleship.

Author and intent: The book of Mark is considered to be the earliest of the synoptic Gospel regardless of their order in the Bible. The author of the book of Mark is said to be John Mark who worked closely with Peter. Some scholars want to deny him as the writer, but there is no evidence to support that theory. Mark’s intention was to simply gather facts but to strengthen his community’s faith in Jesus. Mark’s purpose was to show Jesus as his central theme (as with all the Gospels). It was significant to me that Jesus told many to be silent regarding the miracles he performed. This could have been due to the “divine Man” understanding at that time. Mark may have been trying to set Jesus apart from the divine men that were seeking the recognition for the “works of their hands”.

Structural: Contrast is seen in some scriptures structure.
Examples are: 2:17 (sick and whole), 2:22 (old and new bottles), and 6:11 (those that receive you and those that don’t)

Comparison is also used in this unit. The parables use this form.
Examples are: 4 (sower of seed, seed representing the word).

Cause and Effect (causation). Some examples of cause and effect are found in 4:28-29 (Cause – blasphemies against the Holy Spirit, Effect – unforgiveness), 5:34 (Cause faith, Effect – healing). This happens several times regarding faith.

Chapter Titles:
Chapter 1: The Beginning of the Gospel
a. John the Baptist sets the way (1:2-8)
b. Jesus set apart (Baptism & wilderness experience) (1:9-13)
c. Jesus steps forth (preaching starts) (1:14-15)
d. Jesus gathers disciples (1:16-20)
e. Wonders begin to follow him (1:21-45)

Chapter 2: The Gospel Spreads
a. The word preached (2:1-2)
b. The sick healed (2:3-5)
c. The revealing of the hard hearts (2:6-12)
d. Jesus teaches (2:13)
e. He continues to gather disciples (2:14)
f. The teaching of parables begins (2:19-22)

Chapter 3: The Gospel is advanced
a. Jesus’ works questioned (3:1-6)
b. The people seek Jesus’ miracles (3:7-13)
c. Jesus empowers his disciples (3:13-19)
d. The power is falsely accused (3:23-30)

Chapter 4: The Gospel is not deterred
a. The multitudes come to hear (4:1-10)
b. A deeper understanding to the followers (4:11-33)
c. Faith questioned (4:35-41)

Chapter 5: Gospel taken to the other side
a. Work advanced in a new place (5:1-16)
b. The power rejected (5:17)
c. One left to witness (5:18-20)
d. Faith expressed in the miracles (5:21-43)

Chapter 6: Authority of the Gospel questioned
a. No honor in his own country (6:1-6)
b. Jesus sends them forth (6:7-13)
c. Who is this great one? (6:14-30)
d. A miracle in a desert place (6:31- 45)
e. Faith challenged (6:48-52)
f. Healings continue (6:54-56)

Chapter 7: The ministry methods questioned
a. Pharisee’s find fault (7:1-5)
b. Pharisee’s rebuked (7:6-16)
c. Disciples questioned (7:18-23)
d. Jesus withdraws himself (7:24)
e. The people still come (7:25-37)

Chapter 8: Signs of the Gospel’s power
a. Multitude feed (8:1-10)
b. Pharisees seek signs (8:11-12)
c. The disciples miss the signs (8:13-21)
d. The secret miracles (8:23-26)
e. Do you know who Jesus is? (8:27-30)
f. End time signs revealed (8:31-38)

Chapter 9: The coming Kingdom is revealed
a. Kingdom promised (9:1)
b. Jesus’ identity revealed (9:2-9)
c. Scribes question (9:10-13)
d. Faith questioned (9:16-29)
e. Position in the kingdom (9:33-37)
f. Other followers (9:38-50)

Chapter 10: The Gospel challenged
a. Tempting questions (10:2-12)
b. All welcomed (10:13-16)
c. The heavy price of eternity (10:17-22)
d. Call from the Gospel (10:23-32)
e. The promise through the Gospel (10:32-34)
f. Position in the kingdom (10:35-45)
g. Faith receives fulfillment (10:46-52)

Chapter 11: Preparation for the fulfillment of the Gospel
a. The entrance preparation and fulfillment (11:1-11)
b. The preparation of the authority of the temple (11:15-19)
c. Preparation for maturing faith (11:20-26)
d. The preparation of the authority of Jesus over all (11:27-33)

Chapter 12: The religious world questions the authority of the Gospel
a. Jesus speaks in a parable (12:1-11)
b. The Pharisee questions kingship (11:12-18)
c. The Sadducees questions resurrection (11:19-27)
d. The Scribe perceives wisely (11:28-34)
e. Warning of religious things (11:35-40)
f. Faith is greatly rewarded in the Gospel story (11:41-44)

Chapter 13: The Gospel is the foundation
a. Old ways torn down (13:1-8)
b. Sacrifices for the Gospel (13:9-13)
c. Signs of the Gospel’s fulfillment (13:14-20)
d. False signs of the Gospels fulfillment (13:21-23)
e. True signs of the Gospels fulfillment (13:21-37)

Chapter 14: Blessings given to the Gospel purpose
a. The anointing given (14:1-9)
b. Betray amongst the blessing (14:10-11)
c. Preparation for the meal (14:12-17)
d. Betrayal’s purpose (14:18-21)
e. The blessed truth revealed in the meal (14:22-26)
f. The blessed truth offends (14:27-31)
g. The cup of bless (14:33-42)
h. The betrayal kiss (14:45-50)
i. The spoken promises unfolds (14:53-72)

Chapter 15: The Gospel crucified
a. Jesus accused (15:1-5)
b. Foreshadow of the mercy in the Gospel (15:6-15)
c. The cost of the Gospel (15:16-38)
d. The Gospel message (15:39)
e. The preparation for the Gospel re-entry (15:40-47)

Chapter 16: The Gospel is not dead
a. Alive and well (16:1-8)
b. Jesus shows himself (16:9-14)
c. The Gospel mandate enacted (16:15-20)

Thematic Study (Noting Proportion/Sensing Atmosphere):
There are several themes that run throughout the entire the book of Mark. The greatest is the miracles of Jesus. Healings start as early as the second chapter and continue through to the very last chapters of the book. Jesus teaches the crowds as a group and his disciples when he brings them aside to hear a deeper explanation. Faith also plays an important role in the book of Mark, with an emphasis on the individual. I believe that the question of faithfulness is addressed in numerous places of the book. The disciples who are able to see Jesus’ miracles, still seem not to understand who he is. The last theme I see is the establishment of Jesus’ authority. Sometimes he answers the questions, sometimes he does not and this may be because he already knows the heart of those that are questioning.

Literary Type & Genre: The earliest description of the Gospels as books comes from Justin Martyr in A.D. 155 and he called them memoirs. The Gospels were understood as essentially biographical accounts of Jesus. Form Criticism saw the Gospels arising from oral tradition to have a different understanding than before. One explanation of the style of the book of Mark is that it is a long short story (and historical in nature). It is also said that Mark is a single literary work.

Who or what is this about? – This writing is about the savior, Jesus Christ. Mark does not attempt to give you much detail regarding Jesus’ youth; he is more concerned with where his ministry starts. Mark takes us directly to his baptism and the start of his ministry.

Why is this so important? – Why is this book written in this way? Why is the Gospel as presented by Mark more person centered than simply listing the deeds of Jesus? I believe that is Mark wrote to show his audience that faithfulness in Jesus is important. Those he was trying to encourage were dealing with difficulties and may have been in need of some reassurance for the question, are we doing what is right? Mark’s response to them is yes, Jesus is the savior and your faithfulness in rightly placed; that is why I believe he starts his writing right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

What are the implications and assumptions one can take from this book? – Mark’s message was most concerned with showing Jesus in his interactions with different peoples. Mark makes a point of showing Jesus’ interactions with the “religious people”. He shows how Jesus relates with the crowds and those that stand out in the crowd because of their faith. He also shows how he relates with those that are close to him, his disciples. This gives us a multifaceted look at the savior. He was concerned about people at the same time concerned about the faithfulness of the individual that comes to seek him. He questions his disciple’s lack of understanding, yet patiently continues to show them the truth. He stands as the authority over all that doubt him, yet he still answers. What is the setting and why is that important? – The writing of Mark points to Rome as the most likely place that this was written. Mark has a Gentile audience in mind. This is the explanation given as to why he explains the Aramaic expressions he uses (3:17, 5:41, 7:11, 34; 14:36, 15:34). This is important because Mark was writing so that he could encourage those believers of the power and authority of Jesus. He tells the stories that are not simply a history lesson but a lesson in faith in what Jesus has done and continues to do in their time. It is to increase their faith.

How does this now speak to me? – As a believer in Jesus Christ, I find encouragement that God sees the faithfulness of the individual person. One’s deeds do not go unnoticed by the savior. This is evident because of the women that touched his hem. Jesus’ promises to the disciples are still a promise to me today. It can heal, it can teach and it can save. Mark’s encouragement to the Gentile listener that Jesus was a savior they could trust is still true for me today. His authority, power and concern for man is still alive and available for me.