Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Introduction to Mark

If you weren't in service on Sunday to get a copy of my introduction to Mark handout, here is the digital content. I hope this helps you as begin to study the gospel of Mark with us.

Background Information

Author – historical evidence and the witness of the early church fathers points to John Mark (from Acts 12:12 & Acts 15:36-41), who composed the narrative from his close relationship with the apostle Peter (thus explaining the eye-witness angle in many of the stories). The material would have originally been oral tradition (which Peter and other apostles repeated many times), then compiled by Mark for mass-distribution.

Date - composed sometime between 65 and 70AD, Mark is most likely the earliest of the gospels, which was then used as a source for both the gospel of Matthew and Luke (which share many similar sections).

Audience – the first readers of Mark’s gospel were probably Christians in Rome who were facing renewed waves of persecution from the Roman authorities for their faith in Jesus Christ. The Roman world at that time was primarily pluralistic in its religious orientation (including even the emperor in its list of gods) with a small monotheistic Jewish population centered in historic Palestine. The Roman authorities had grown more hostile to the Christian community by the time of Mark’s writing because of their growth numerically and their resistance to pagan religious practices. This Christian community would have known Greek (the original language of the book of Mark), but would have needed help understanding Jewish customs and Aramaic expressions in the text.

Purpose – writing to a first-century community of persecuted Jesus-followers, Mark seems to write in order to accomplish a few goals: first, he wants the community to know the life and teaching of Jesus whom they follow. Discipleship of Jesus is difficult to do without knowing who Jesus is or what Jesus teaches. Thus, Mark seeks to develop the reader’s Christology, to know the true Jesus. Second, Mark wants the community to understand that discipleship (following the path of Christ) involves the cross and not just the glory. In fact, Mark seems to push farther than that in his narrative – the cross must precede the crown. Finally, Mark’s purpose is to help the reader place themselves in the story in relationship to the major characters – are we most like the authorities, the disciples, the crowd, or like Jesus?

Unique Features – while reading the gospel of Mark, look for the secrecy motif, the lack of understanding from the disciples, the needs of the crowd, the claims & authority of Jesus, and the suffering inherent in discipleship.

Outline (and preaching schedule)

Introduction - Mark 1:1 (06.28.09)

Disciples of Jesus – The Leader We Follow

Jesus’ Call - Mark 1:2-20 (07.05.09)

Jesus’ Authority - Mark 1:21-45 (07.12.09)

Jesus’ Conflict – Mark 2:1-3:6 (07.19.09)

Jesus’ Family – Mark 3:7-35 (07.26.09)

Jesus’ Parables I – Mark 4:1-20 (08.02.09)

Jesus’ Parables II – Mark 4:21-34 (08.09.09)

Jesus’ Identity – Mark 4:35-5:20 (08.16.09)

Jesus’ Power – Mark 5:21-6:6 (08.23.09)

Disciples like Jesus – The Path We Follow

The Call to Die – Mark 6:7-32 (08.30.09)

The Call to Trust – Mark 6:33-56 (09.06.09)

The Call to Purity – Mark 7:1-23 (09.13.09)

The Call to See God – Mark 7:24-8:21 (09.20.09)

The Call to Suffer – Mark 8:22-9:13 (09.27.09)

The Call to Kingdom – Mark 9:14-50 (10.04.09)

The Call to Stewardship – Mark 10:1-31 (10.11.09)

The Call to Sacrificial Love – Mark 10:32-52 (10.18.09)

Disciples from Jesus – The Cost To Follow

The Cost of Fruit – Mark 11:1-26 (10.25.09)

The Cost of Obedience – Mark 11:27-12:27 (11.01.09)

The Cost of Generosity – Mark 12:28-44 (11.08.09)

The Cost of Persecution – Mark 13:1-37 (11.15.09)

The Cost of Betrayal – Mark 14:1-42 (11.22.09)

The Cost of Repentance – Mark 14:43-72 (11.29.09)

The Cost of Injustice – Mark 15:1-20 (12.06.09)

The Cost of Surrender – Mark 15:21-47 (12.13.09)

The Cost of Speaking – Mark 16:1-8 (12.20.09)

Lessons Learned from Mark (12.24.09)

Major Characters

Jesus – the central character of Mark’s gospel is Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1), who is mysterious, powerful, and compassionate. Mark’s portrayal of Jesus is mysterious primarily because Jesus’ parables are not always clear (He has to explain to His followers what they mean) and because He consistently tells people in the story to not share what He has done with others (the secrecy motif mentioned above). Jesus is obviously unique in His power and authority throughout the book of Mark as He encounters and overcomes illness, demons, forces of nature, and opposition forces. Mark’s Jesus is in control from start to finish. Finally, the Jesus of the gospel of Mark is compassionate in his love for his disciples and the crowds. He sees them as sheep without shepherds, heals their infirmities, forgives their sin, and teaches them about the kingdom of God. Of course, finally, He gives up His life for them and as an example of what all who live in the kingdom can expect to endure. Mark’s story ends with a short resurrection narrative, reminding us again that Jesus is unique among all men. Jesus’ identity defines the identity of the disciple – to be His follower, we must first know who He is and what He requires.

Jewish Authorities – the Jewish authorities function as one character in Mark’s gospel (the experts in the law, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, etc.) because they constantly oppose His work and His teaching. From chapter 2 until the end of the book, Mark portrays the religious leaders as blind and deaf to the work of God through Jesus. He also contrast their “lord-it-over” leadership with Jesus’ “servant” leadership.

The Twelve – Mark describes the twelve primary disciples of Jesus as simply The Twelve. The Twelve in the gospel of Mark are portrayed as both faithful followers of Jesus and also scared, confused, faith-less men. From scene to scene, the disciples go from misunderstanding Jesus to participating in amazing miracles to resisting the mission and death of Jesus. The disciples are not antagonistic (like the authorities) toward Jesus, but they fail to be for Jesus when it really mattered. Mark seems to ask the reader implicitly what kind of disciple he/she will be.

The Crowd – the final reoccurring character in the story is the crowd. People float in and out of the narrative as they listen to Jesus teach, experience miraculous healings, or just watch Him at work. The crowd has surprising amounts of faith in Jesus, but also tends to not stick with Jesus for very long. Mark’s literary use of the crowd is an interesting commentary on many of us who like to observe but fail to commit.

Major Themes

Christology – Who is Jesus?

As mentioned before, Mark primary goal is to introduce the reader (and the listener) to Jesus, the Son of God. As the first written gospel, the book of Mark was created as a lasting record for generations who would want to know the stories of Jesus’ life so that they could understand His identity. The reader today must enter the gospel with the goal of meeting Jesus. Mark is not interested in simply telling a story, but in helping the reader connect with a person. Mark has a high Christology (as evidenced by Mark 1:1), but also wants the reader to be shocked by some of the things that Jesus says and does. The Messiah is not who anyone expected Him to be, including us.

Discipleship – What does it mean to be Jesus’ disciple?

A second theme (that runs closely parallel with the first) is discipleship. The word disciple (which we are using as the series title) means student, apprentice, or follower. In other words, Mark is introducing us to the person and work of Jesus so that we who believe in Him can know what it means to follow after Him. How did He live His life? How did He treat others around Him? How did He relate to God? How did He endure suffering and betrayal? As we study the life of Jesus in more depth, we begin to understand what it looks like to follow His example. The most difficult place to follow Him is to the cross – Jesus’ Way is the way of the cross. The disciple of Jesus understands that the cross comes before the crown.

Suffering & Sovereignty – How do we approach suffering?

The early community of Christ-followers who read the gospel of Mark would have been closely acquainted with suffering and persecution. The church at that time was still the minority in a majority polytheistic culture. How does the disciple of Jesus endure unjust suffering from the hands of unrighteous leaders? Mark reminds his readers that this is Jesus’ story – as His disciples, we should expect the same treatment that He encountered. Mark points us to Jesus’ trust in the sovereign plan of God as one of the keys to experiencing suffering with grace.

The Gospel – What is the good news?

Why does Mark describe his book as good news? What about the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus is good news for its hearers? Mark seeks to explain that Jesus’ advent and work demonstrate to the world that God’s love and presence are real, and that God has not left us alone. Redemption has finally come.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Movie Review: Defiance

I was up late last night since I was waiting for Barie to return from her trip to Dallas for a friend's baby-shower. To pass the time, I stopped by RedBox on the way home from church last night and picked up Defiance, a movie based on the true story of a group of Jews who hid in the forest from the Germans during WWII and resisted capture.

Their story is remarkable, and like any narrative involving the Jews in Nazi-occupied territories during WWII, incredibly brutal. The main theme of the movie concerns this renogade group's attempt to not respond to brutality with brutality. Of course, they chose to do things they would not have done during piece time in order to simply survive, but the dialogue throughout the movie is how far they will desend into revenge as they seek to survive. Most of the men and women hiding in the woods lost immediate family members at the hands of the Nazis. In one of the defining moments of the movie, Daniel Craig's character says, "Our revenge will be to stay alive." From that point on, the group's goal is no longer to kill Germans, but to stay alive and maintain their humanity.

At the end of the movie, the subtitles noted that the group that formed in 1940 in response the horrors of the Germans actually grew throughout the war and survived until the end of the war. By the end of WWII, the group was 1200 strong. We really have no idea how difficult some people have had it throughout history, do we? All I could think of while watching it was - one, how thankful I am for my wife and kids, and two, how would I respond to those who treated those I love with brutality? A tough question and a great movie.

San Antonio Half-Marathon

It's official - I booked our spot in the San Antonio Half-Marathon on November 15th. I guess we really have to start training now! The running is good for me - I went this morning (about 2 miles) - it really helps me keep my sugars down and my weight under control.

There are 30,000 people who run this San Antonio race - I can't believe there will be that many people running through downtown San Antonio - should be a sight to see.

If you are going to register, make sure and use the coupon code Sdsurvey in order to get $10 off your registration fee. And get a hotel early - they are already booking up fast.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Preaching the Book of Mark

I'm starting a new series this Sunday on the Book of Mark - the whole thing. I'm really excited - 27 weeks, 16 chapters, wrapping up at Christmas. I hope you will follow along with us and learn about and meet with Jesus. A good resource on the book of Mark that is free is Dr. Constable's study notes. You can download the free PDF at Sonic Light. See you Sunday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


This is the 7-day forecast from KVUE today. Looks like a cold-front comes through Monday - down to 99.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Compassion (the thing & the organization)

I preached on being a community of compassion last Sunday, finishing our Retro series on the first three chapters of the book of Acts. I was really challenged by the text about my vision (do I see with compassion?), my convictions (do I believe I have something to offer?), and my message (am I pointing others to Jesus?). We all show compassion in lots of ways, but one way that Barie and I show compassion to others is actually working through a ministry called Compassion.

Compassion is a ministry that partners sponsors from the US (and other developed countries) with kids in under-developed countries to provide food, medical attention, and education - all in the name of Christ. Compassion just passed the 1 million mark in the number of kids being sponsored around the world. Our family has sponsored Isaac (who lives in Peru) for about 6 years now, and he is now a teenager. We write to him regularly and get letters from him often.

Compassion publishes a magazine once a quarter that tells great stories about how others are showing compassion to people around the world. This month's magazine had a great article about Albert Pujoles, the all-star baseball player, who serves the poor in the Dominican Republic. It also has a great article about Mike Foster, who started a group called The Junky Car Club, to encourage people to drive cheaper, older cars so they could be more generous with those who need help. Check them both out and be encouraged.

Finally, take a second to watch Rob Bell's new Nooma video on why compassion and gracious living is so important to our personal, spiritual health. You can watch it for free online.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend for Wife & Dad

We had a wonderful weekend - my wonderful wife turned 30 years old on Saturday. As we were at dinner Saturday night at the awesome Main Street Grill in Round Rock (if you go, get the Grilled Salmon), we spent over two hours just talking about how blessed we have been in our 20's. We've had four wonderful kids, who continue to amaze us and challenge us every day as parents. We've graduated from college and graduate school. We've moved our family to Round Rock to plant a church which is about to turn 2-years old. We've bought our first home, we've made awesome friends, and we've gotten to know our neighbors. What a decade! But the best decision I made in my 20's was to marry Barie Davis right after my 21st birthday. A friend, a partner, a lover, and fellow seeker of God - everything a man could hope for in his spouse.

We also celebrated Father's Day this weekend. My kids made me the marker-art that 3, 4, and 5 year-olds make. They loved on me, bought me a Sunday paper (my favorite!), and then Barie made an awesome chicken-fried steak dinner. But this Father's Day I'm reminded of how blessed I am with the dad I have. A hard-working, compassionate, intelligent, faithful man, my dad has taught me many important lessons about life. I would definitely not be the man I am today without his influence, his guidance, and his friendship. And as I grow older (and he gets closer to retirement), our friendship continues to grow. Maybe it's our mutual hope for the Rangers this year or maybe it is just a son who is starting to better appreciate the most influential man in his life. Happy Father's Day, dad.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


A few links to interesting articles you might enjoy...

Barack Obama on the responsibility of fatherhood in Parade Magazine.

Peggy Noonan on the Iranian revolution underway in the Wall Street Journal.

Roger Cohen's report from the streets of Tehran about the uprising in the NY Times.

Daniel Burke on John Calvin's upcoming 500th birthday in Religious News Service.

David Dockery interview on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention (their annual meeting is this week).

Mark Driscoll's little book on fatherhood for free.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Huckabee & Stewart on Abortion

You may or may not know that I am a regular watcher of Jon Stewart's Daily Show. He is crude, but his critiques of modern culture and media can be penetrating and right-on. Despite the fart-jokes and the crassness of his humor, he engages serious issues every week. Check out last night's discussion with Mike Huckabee (former Republican presidential candidate) on the issue of abortion. In my humble opinion, Huckabee took him to task, which is as it should be, because the pro-choice position is indefensible. Here's clip one - go to www.thedailyshow.com to see the full 3-part interview:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Recommended Resources

I get asked sometimes what books and resources I would recommend to others to help them grow in their spiritual life. Today, as we worked on adding more content to our church's website, I filled in a page on resources I would recommend in areas like Bible Study, Theology, Global Missions, and Church-Planting. You can find the list by clicking this link over to our church's website. Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Setting An Exercise Goal

Since Barie's triathlon two weeks ago, we have been talking about the benefits she enjoyed in working out because she knew that she was training for an event. With both of us being goal-oriented people, I am wondering if I don't need something to work towards instead of just working out to work out. With my diabetes, it is really important that I work out several times a week to stay healthy. But I also struggle with balancing all the demands on my time - walking daily with God, investing quality time in my kids, pursuing/dating my wife, and pastoring a church. Where does working out 4-5 times a week fit into this schedule? I know it can, but I need to be working toward something.

So, we're talking now about maybe signing up to run a half-marathon in the fall. San Antonio hosts a big run in November that sounds like a good one for us to run in, but to be honest, I'm a little terrified of the idea. I've never been a runner, and only through running with Barie in preparation for her triathlon have I run about 3 miles. That's my longest run. A half-marathon is 13 miles - ouch. So, we're talking about doing it. Should we set the goal and go for it? I don't know. Any thoughts? You have any goals that keep you motivated for exercising?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Notes: The Pursuit of Holiness

The first book that I finished on study break was The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. What a great read! I had started it before study break, but finished reading while I was gone. I was so challenged by Bridges' compelling case for biblical holiness. I hope and pray that while we preach grace as a church, we do it in such a way that we do not give license for sin. God cares about our holiness, commands our holiness, and works in us to bring about holiness. Here are the notes I took from Bridges' book - hope these help in your own journey toward Christlikeness:

  • Modern evangelical Christians have fallen into the trap of believing that “walking by faith” means that we have no responsibility for personal holiness – that God is the only One who works out our holiness. We simply do not take some sins seriously, having created classes of sins, with some being acceptable and others not.
  • We can become so accustomed to some sins in our life that we lapse into a peaceful coexistence with our sin, but God never ceases to hate all sin because He is eternally, perfectly holy.
  • Holiness is not optional for the follower of Jesus Christ, but required for fellowship with God, our own personal well-being, effective service for God, and assurance of our own salvation.
  • God has given us the potential to resist sin by the work of Christ, but He has then given the responsibility to resist sin to the believer. When we sin as Christians, we do not sin because we are slaves to sin anymore, but as individuals with the freedom to choose in Christ. We sin because we choose to sin.
  • We must guard our hearts because they are so deceitful on their own, they can lead us astray toward sin. We are first drawn away from watchfulness, then away from obedience. Indwelling sin is always looking for an excuse to abuse grace from God.
  • To daily walk in holiness, we must be content with the circumstances that God has brought us in life, but discontent with the disobedience in our own lives toward the perfect standards of God. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that intellectual consent with Scripture is equal to obedience to Scripture.
  • To daily walk in holiness, we must first have personal convictions that are informed by God’s Word. Then, we must develop personal commitment to obey those convictions. For areas where Scripture is not clear, we must develop personal convictions by answering the following questions: (1) is it helpful to me physically, mentally, and spiritually? (2) does it bring me under its power? (3) does it hurt others? (4) does it glorify God?
  • Holiness only comes from a disciplined life, especially in the area of daily studying, reading, and memorizing God’s Word. This discipline must lead to application. Three key questions for application: (1) what does this passage teach about God’s will for holiness in my life? (2) how does my life measure up specifically to this standard? (3) what definite steps do I need to take to obey?
  • Personal holiness should include self-control with our physical bodies, purity in our inner-life (our emotions, motives, and attitudes), and the building of godly habits.
  • Living a holy life in a unholy world is ultimately an act of faith, because it says that I believe that God’s ways are better than the ways of the world, and I believe that He will reward me for making the right choices.
  • Finally, we must not forget that ultimate joy comes from living a holy life – the joy of daily walking with God and honoring Him as our Maker.

Thanks, Jerry, for these awesome, challenging thoughts about holiness. I recommend this one to everybody!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Awesome Two Weeks

I haven't blogged in the last two weeks, so a quick update on all that has been happening -

We took a much-needed week of family vacation after a very busy spring. We spent a week in a condo at Canyon Lake, northwest of San Antonio. We spent two of those days at Fiesta Texas (which the boys loved) and the rest of the time doing lots of swimming, playing lots of putt-putt, and enjoying time together as a family. We had a blast, and I was so thankful to have the time to simply focus on my family.

We got back into town on Saturday, June 6th, then prepared for Barie's first-ever triathlon on Sunday, June 7th. She did an amazing job - you can read about her experience and see pictures on her blog. I was so proud of her hard work in preparing for the event and doing so well in it.

Afterward, on Sunday evening, the 7th, I started my week-long study-break. Once a year, the elders of our church ask me to take a week away from the responsibilities of the church to read and study and pray about where God is leading our congregation in the next year. It is truly an amazing time to have focused time to listen for God's direction. This year, my mom and Barie's mom agreed to take the kids for the week so that Barie could join me for some time to rejuvenate herself. We spent three nights at the Haven River Inn in Comfort, TX, a great bed-and-breakfast that gives pastors two nights a year free and other nights at half-price. Those three days were incredibly quiet and relaxing as I spent time reading and studying.

I finished my study break yesterday, and our elders had our first elder-retreat of the year last night and today. Our church is blessed with an incredible group of elders that I am immensely thankful for. They gave up their weekend to pray and reflect together on what God is saying to our church. I reported on all that I had studied and thought about during my study break, and we made great progress as an elder board.

I read 10 books during this week away, and I'll report on my blog some of my thoughts and takeaways from each of those books. I'm excited to get back to the church tomorrow and see all the wonderful people in our church family. I'm pumped about getting back in the office this week and getting to work. And I'm thrilled to be back at home with all of my family under one roof.

God has been too gracious to me.