Dealing with Spiritual Power Failures and Nagging Doubts — Mark 9:14-29

Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Christian | 0 comments

Dealing with Spiritual Power Failures and Nagging Doubts — Mark 9:14-29

In my business, people bring us problems all day long.  Their heavy duty truck or their bus is broken-down and won’t function as intended.  They have been counting on that vehicle to make them money and now it has let them down.

Customers have the same set of needs:

– They have a problem they need solved – They can’t solve it themselves because they don’t have their own shop with techs or they don’t have the expertise or time to make this particular repair;

They need us to be Available with the resources they require

– They have a problem they need solved NOW — sense of urgency because the situation is costing them money and productivity – They want to get back on the road as quickly and painlessly as possible;

They need us to Care

            – They have a problem they need solved with finality — need a solution that will fix the problem the first time so that it stays fixed with no comebacks;

They need us to be Skilled

Customers can put up Obstacles to a Good Outcome:

– Usually they are very demanding – not very helpful

– Sometimes they are unrealistic – Want it fixed immediately and don’t want to pay what the repair is worth.

– Sometimes they refuse to accept the diagnosis – We will get another opinion or try to limp along and hope it is not as bad as you say.  As if they were the experts even though they took it to the repair shop in the first place because they were unable to fix it themselves



Reassurance Regarding the Identity of the Messiah — Mark 9:2-13

Posted by on Apr 24, 2016 in Christian | 0 comments

Reassurance Regarding the Identity of the Messiah — Mark 9:2-13

It’s possible to say a lot of nice things about Jesus without fully grasping Who He Is.  Just look at the Christological teaching in liberal Protestant seminaries across our country.  It’s possible to say a lot of nice things about Jesus without fully understanding Why He Suffered and Died on the Cross.  For the most part, you don’t hear the world trashing Jesus.   They certainly use His name in vain all of the time … but when they are asked their impressions of Jesus, they have favorable things to say.  But the key is: they don’t Get It.

In the Gospels we witness the growing understanding of the disciples as they truly Get It.  In this crucial mid-section of Mark’s Gospel, the disciples of Jesus have just testified to His Messianic identity as the Christ.  They have been introduced to His Mission which will involve suffering and death and challenged to embrace for themselves the heavy cost of discipleship.  To:

  • Renounce Self
  • Take up their Cross
  • and Follow the Master.

At this point they needed words of reassurance — Because they still struggled with understanding the pathway of rejection and suffering and even the prospect of physical death for the Messiah.  They also did not grasp the reality of the soon-to-come resurrection.  So we saw last week in 9:1 that Jesus Reassured them regarding the Mission of the Messiah – He will be victorious and will send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in power to accomplish the spread of the gospel of the kingdom.  So here Jesus Reassures them regarding His Identity as He walks them through this amazing mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration to reassure them that death for the Messiah is essential in order for the end game to be glorious.



Boom Goes the Dynamite! Reassurance About the Mission of Jesus Christ — Mark 9:1

Posted by on Apr 19, 2016 in Christian | 0 comments

Boom Goes the Dynamite!  Reassurance About the Mission of Jesus Christ — Mark 9:1

The disciples of Jesus now understand His Messianic identity as the Christ.  They have been introduced to His Mission of suffering and rejection and death and resurrection.  They have been challenged to embrace the heavy cost of discipleship.  They have even been graciously given some fundamental reasons to align themselves with Jesus Christ and Renounce Self, Take up their Cross and Follow the Master.  The final accounting at the Second Coming is put before them: The Son of Man will come “in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”  But after hearing what to their ears would have amounted to a very difficult challenge (a far cry from the type of kingdom experience they have been anticipating in the short term), they needed words of reassurance to give them courage and boldness in facing anticipated suffering and persecution.

Look at how the words of reassurance directly correspond in chiastic structure to the revelation that has just been communicated:


A1. (8:27-30)                          Clarity Regarding the Person of Jesus Christ

B1 (8:31-33)                      Clarity Regarding the Mission of Jesus Christ

C (8:34-38)                  Challenge Regarding the Heavy Cost of Discipleship – Allegiance to His Person and Mission

B2 (9:1)                             Reassurance Regarding the Mission of Jesus Christ

A2 (9:2-13)                            Reassurance Regarding the Person of Jesus Christ

Remember that the chapter and verse divisions were added at a later point in time —  not part of the original inspired scripture.  While very helpful, they are not always positioned at the best point – such is the case with 9:1.  It really is tied more directly to what precedes.  The disciples have been challenged to follow the way of the cross which will lead to suffering for all true disciples and violent and painful death from persecution for many of the Apostles standing before Jesus.  How can they take courage and act boldly moving forward – knowing that they may soon “taste death” because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ?

Remember also the concept of “Already and Not Yet” (sermon by Joseph Greer – first time I have borrowed from him).  We need to know that there is a sense in which we already are living under the dominion of Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God; while there yet remains a future aspect to the kingdom that has yet to be realized.  This dual nature of “Already and Not Yet” must be maintained.  Very important text … but very enigmatic . . . very difficult to interpret . . . many good scholars with a wide range of interpretations – can’t be dogmatic here . . . but the application is clear.



The Heavy Cost of Discipleship — Mark 8:34-38

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Christian | 0 comments

The Heavy Cost of Discipleship — Mark 8:34-38

Remember the flow of the passage in this key heart of the gospel of Mark — chapter 8: Confessing Who Jesus really is = testimony of Peter = “Thou are the Christ.”  Understanding His Messiahship led to Christ teaching his disciples about His Mission – the key elements of Suffering, Rejection, Death, Resurrection – teaching these things clearly.

Now Jesus is going to move to the true meaning of Discipleship.

Huge debate in Christian circles today over whether the category of “Disciple” is a subset of Christians or synonymous with Christians.  If you are not a disciple are you not even a Christian?  Or can you be some type of carnal Christian and be on your way to heaven and just not have made the higher commitment to following Jesus as your Lord?  Context here is clear that the downside of not embracing discipleship is the loss of eternal life

Mark 10:17, 30 – the reward is eternal life (not some crown for being an elite believer);

John 8:12 to have the Light of Life”; to attach yourself to Jesus by faith

Alan Carr: Jesus would have been a public relations manager’s nightmare! Every time He began to attract a large following, Jesus would up the ante. He would tell them how high the cost of following Him would be and the crowds would vanish. Jesus did this so that people would know the truth. He wanted them to know that it would not be cheap or easy to be His disciples . .



The Redemptive Mission of the Suffering Servant Introduced — Mark 8:31-33

Posted by on Apr 3, 2016 in Christian | Comments Off on The Redemptive Mission of the Suffering Servant Introduced — Mark 8:31-33

As soon as the disciples of Jesus come to grips with Who He really is (confession of Peter), Jesus immediately transitions to explaining very clearly to them His intended Mission.  Close connection between these 2 halves of Mark’s Gospel – Luke does not even begin a new sentence here (9:22).

Parunak: three predictions of his passion (all given in private to His disciples): 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34. Now that they recognize him as Messiah, they are ready to learn a new side to his work.

John Grassmick: The structure of this section (8:31 – 10:52) revolves around three Passion predictions: 8:31-9:29; 9:30-10:31; 10:32-52.   Each unit includes a prediction (8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34); a reaction by the disciples (8:32-33; 9:32; 10:35-41); and one or more lessons in discipleship (8:34-9:29; 9:33-10:31; 10:42-52).

Alan Carr: For centuries, the Jews had looked for God to send a Deliverer. They anticipated a great military leader who would defeat Israel’s enemies, restore righteousness to the land, and who would purify and restore Temple worship to its ancient glory, Jer. 33:15; Eze. 37:23-24. The Jews believed that this deliverer would achieve his goals through the force of arms. They were looking for a fighter, a revolutionary and an insurrectionist.

Who is Jesus and Why did He come to this earth – if you understand the answer to those 2 questions you have true spiritual insight.



Culmination of Judgment and Salvation in the End Times — Isaiah 66:15-24

Posted by on Mar 20, 2016 in Christian | Comments Off on Culmination of Judgment and Salvation in the End Times — Isaiah 66:15-24

Culmination of Judgment and Salvation in the End Times — Isaiah 66:15-24

“The Road to the Final Four” has a nice ring of finality to it – the wrapping up of the college basketball season – the 68 team tournament that determines the ultimate champion.  How is your NCAA bracket doing?  Have you picked mostly winners?  Quite a few surprises already – like always.  When most things come to an end, they are actually over.  That is why you see the coach of Michigan State, Tom Izzo, so emotional as his team gets upset and he deals with the reality that the existence of this team is over.  It has been a special group of young men that he has loved coaching – but this team has no future going forward as a team.  This is the end of the line.

As we come to our final sermon on the 66 chapters of Isaiah, the eloquent and gifted prophet is wrapping up many of the themes that we have been tracking through the book.  The last chapter especially focuses on the alternating emphasis between The Culmination of Judgment and Salvation In the End Times.  Each paragraph goes back and forth.

Oswalt: When one observes the book as a whole, the interchange between judgment and hope is unmistakable. . . Here this interchange occurs for the last time, with 15-17 (and v. 24) depicting the fate of those both within and beyond the Israelite community who persist in rebellion against God, and vv. 18-23 depicting the salvation of the nations that will occur as a result of the revelation of God’s glory in both judgment and redemption.  Finally, as far as this book is concerned, judgment and hope are inseparable.  It is out of judgment that hope emerges, but hope never removes the potential and the reality of judgment.

But there is something very unique about this discussion of end times – of God bringing to ultimate fulfillment His purposes for this world and His program for His elect nation – as well as His program for outreach to the Gentile nations.



Except for Fornication — by H. Van Dyke Parunak

Posted by on Mar 18, 2016 in Book Reviews, Christian | Comments Off on Except for Fornication — by H. Van Dyke Parunak

Except for Fornication — by H. Van Dyke Parunak

This book very clearly presents an alternative view on the topic of the teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage.  I must acknowledge right from the beginning that Van Parunak is a personal friend and someone who shares my convictions regarding church government — so my objectivity in this analysis might be open to question.  But his credentials as a Biblical scholar and a Hebrew scholar in particular are impeccable.  I have used his materials throughout my sermon series on the book of Isaiah to great benefit.

This topic has certainly been a thorny one for Christian pastors — given the increasing practice of both divorce and remarriage in all types of church contexts.  As Parunak wisely advises: “Long ago, a wise Bible teacher counseled me and other young men who hoped to serve the church of God, ‘Be sure to figure out in advance what you believe about divorce and remarriage.  Sooner or later, you will have to counsel people who are embroiled in this tragic situation.  It’s far better that you figure out what you believe now, while you can be objective with the Scriptures, than when you are deeply immersed in the emotional trauma of those you love.'”  But having recognized that, at whatever stage you find yourself in Christian ministry, you still need to be open and submissive to what the Bible has to say on the subject.


The Comfort Only a Mother Can Provide — Isaiah 66:7-14

Posted by on Mar 13, 2016 in Christian | Comments Off on The Comfort Only a Mother Can Provide — Isaiah 66:7-14

The Comfort Only a Mother Can Provide — Isaiah 66:7-14

The final chapters of Isaiah have reflected the alternating emphasis of God’s judgment upon His enemies and His ultimate comfort and blessing for the reborn nation of Israel in the last days.  Our section for today is one of comfort and blessing – giving hope for the ultimate future of the nation.  God takes such pains to emphasize that He will surely accomplish what seems so unlikely – it is sad to see how many believers have discarded any hope in God’s future program for the nation of Israel.  Yes, it is unheard of; Yes, it seems impossible; But God has pledged to come through on all of His promises for His elect nation.

When we look at the suffering and pressure in our present circumstances, we can become down in the mouth and forget God’s glorious end game strategy for us.  That is why Peter instructs believers to focus on their heavenly inheritance and live with eternity in view:

1 Peter 1:3-9

Constable: The mood now reverts back to hope (cf. 65:17-25). In contrast to all the bereavement and deprivation that Jerusalem had experienced and would yet experience (cf. 26:16-18; 37:3; 51:18-20), the ultimate future of the city and its inhabitants remained bright.

Mother Day’s passage comes early this year:

Parunak:  There are two things that a mother does for her children.  This paragraph crowns the metaphor by describing Jerusalem as the mother of her people. It has two halves, corresponding to two facets of the maternal relation: giving birth (vv. 7-9), and sustaining her offspring (vv. 10-13). Each ends (vv. 9, 12-13) with a statement attributed to the Lord.




Word Tremblers vs Religious Hypocrites — Isaiah 66:1-6

Posted by on Mar 6, 2016 in Christian | 1 comment

Word Tremblers vs Religious Hypocrites — Isaiah 66:1-6

People have all kinds of opinion about what type of worship pleases God.

  • Some people think it is all about ambiance – you must have the type of environment that inspires awe and wonder; your building structure and your stained glass windows and your plush pews and your vaulted ceiling and your lofty pulpit should lift your hearts up to truly give God the glory due His name; If this is truly what God desires, we are in trouble here at Solid Rock
  • Others put the focus on music – the type of music and the quality of music that creates a worshipful atmosphere. Now their answer might come in different forms.  It might involve majestic pipe organs or invigorating rock bands; certainly our emphasis at Solid Rock has not been on the quality of our singing and of our special music
  • Others put the focus on the more mystical, experiential or charismatic impact of the service – how close to God did you feel during the service; how were your emotions touched and how were you brought to some type of mountain-top state of spiritual ecstasy? If that is they type of worship that God is looking for, we are missing the mark here at Solid Rock

Let’s read 66:1-6 – Fortunately God does not leave us guessing as to what type of worshipers he approves of; He presents a contrast in these opening verses of the final chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy between those who tremble at God’s Word (as Brian Borgman does, we will shorten that expression to the Word Tremblers) and those who are religious hypocrites – who check all the boxes regarding externals but whose heart is far from God


Beall: This final chapter of the book brings out many of the central themes for a last time: the hypocrisy of the people in their half-hearted worship (in reality worshipping idols) and their judgment; the future restoration of Israel and Jerusalem in peace, and judgment of her enemies; Israel as a light to the Gentiles, who will come and worship the Lord; and the ultimate eternal doom of those who continue to sin against the Lord.

Takes us back to where the book started in chap. 1:11-20  God is addressing people who consider themselves to be religious – not the vast pagan world that makes no claim to be the true Israel of God



Saving the Best for Last — Isaiah 65:17-25

Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 in Christian | Comments Off on Saving the Best for Last — Isaiah 65:17-25

Saving the Best for Last — Isaiah 65:17-25

This earth is headed for a glorious finish as God’s holy mountain – the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on a global scale.  Hard to imagine when we look around us at the fallen and depraved conditions of our day.  But only this type of glorious finish realizes God’s original intent in creating the heavens and the earth.  It has always been His intention to establish His Son on the throne to rule over the earth and administer justice within a context of worship and holiness.  God’s law will be taught and embraced by all the subjects of the kingdom.  God’s purposes will not be thwarted by Satan.  In fact, God will exercise His dominion by binding Satan for the 1000 year Millennial period.  Make no mistake, God will demonstrate His control visibly on the earth and glorify Himself in that way.

This great hope is what so motivated the OT Jews.  They died in faith it says in Heb. 11:13-16 – “without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared a city for them.”  That heavenly New Jerusalem is the extension of the revitalized New Jerusalem seen in this millennial passage just as the eternal state of the kingdom is the final extension of the millennial kingdom seen here.

The disciples of Jesus’ day were motivated by this hope as well so that when He appeared after His resurrection they eagerly asked Him: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”  [Acts 1:6]

Peter’s writings indicate that we are to be motivated by such a hope as well as he jumps forward to the ultimate end: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of “God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heart!  But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” [2 Pet. 3:10-13]

The study of future prophecy is not something that Jesus wants us to dismiss as just pious speculation.  It had practical application to how we live today.

Constable: As the book opened with an emphasis on judgment (chs. 1—5), so it closes with an emphasis on hope (65:17—66:24). Amid judgment, Israel could have hope. References to “new heavens” and a “new earth” form an inclusio for this final section of the book (65:17; 66:22).

Oswalt: How will humans ever be able to live the righteousness of God, to be the evidence to the nations that he alone is God?  Only in one way: if God himself intervenes and exercises His creative power to remake us and our world.

David Thompson: The world in which we are living is depressing, but God wants His people joyful. Look carefully in this context and see the emphasis on joy and gladness (Isaiah 65:13, 14, 18, 19). Where in the world can Israel find joy and happiness right now and where can we find it? We certainly cannot find it in the threats and intimidations of this world. We cannot find it in a bunch of lying politicians who say one thing and do another.