Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Questions of Jesus

I've really enjoyed preaching through the book of Mark this year at the church. We just finished chapter 10 on Sunday, so we have basically hit the 2/3 marker in our journey. The text this weeks starts the Passion Week narrative, where Mark slows down the timeline and spends six chapters in the last seven days of the life of Jesus. We will be preaching the end of Mark all the way until the end of the year, which means that the Advent season will take us through the crucifixion of Jesus and on Christmas Eve, our last service of the year, we will preach Mark 16:1-8, His resurrection. Should be interesting!

One thing that happens when you preach through a whole book is that you begin to notice interesting connections and themes that go from beginning to end. I shared Sunday night at Leadership Community about the theme of the compassion of Jesus in the book of Mark, which challenges us to see people with the eyes and heart of God, not our normal cynicism.

One other interesting thread on Mark's gospel is how many questions Jesus asks. I know you will think I'm weird for doing this, but I actually wrote out all the questions from Jesus and counted them. He asks 46 questions in 16 chapters. It seems that Jesus teaches with questions. In so many passages, he gets a question and turns it immediately back to the questioner with his own inquiry. Jesus is the master question-asker. A couple of thoughts hit me as I read this...

1) I should ask more questions rather than always assuming that I have the answers. Do I ask good questions or just space-filling questions?

2) I should not only come to Jesus with my questions, but should also listen to His questions. Maybe I'm consumed with the wrong stuff and Jesus is trying to shift my focus.

3) One of the best ways to teach is to ask great questions. We all struggle with self-awareness and a good question can lead a student to see himself honestly for the first time.

What did I notice about Jesus' questions? Well, that might need to be another post. Or even a sermon series - the questions of Jesus. That would be fun - like Jesus putting us on the hot-seat rather than us always throwing our questions at Jesus.

One final note - Jesus' last words in Mark are a question - My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Wow - the questions of Jesus.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Spiritual Dryness

We had a great discussion yesterday at staff meeting about spiritual dryness - what it is and how to diagnose it. We all agreed that we go through seasons in our walk with God where we hunger passionately for Him and really enjoy our time with him, and we also go through seasons where we are disciplining ourselves to spend time with God, our hearts are cold spiritually and our passion is gone. The big question for me is, "what do we do in seasons of spiritual dryness to get that passion and joy to return in our relationship with God?" Our team had a few ideas that I thought were helpful...

1) Be Honest With God. We need to start with self-awareness and honesty. For some reason, we tend to deny that we are in a spiritual rut until we get really desperate. We need to buck that trend and start with telling God the truth (since He knows anyway) - we are struggling spiritually and need His help.

2) Repent of Sin. Sometimes spiritual dryness results from unconfessed sin in our lives. God is convicting us by His Spirit and His Word, we are rejecting His leading, and the result is distance in our relationship with Him. We need to ask the question, is there sin in my life that is keeping me from being close to the Lord?

3) Reconcile Relationships. Strange as it sounds, we all agreed that broken horizontal relationships can negatively impact our vertical relationship with God. If we are having a hard time connecting with God, it may be the Spirit telling us that we need to get right with another person (spouse, friend, child, anyone) first.

4) Meditate on Truth. Rather than thinking that we need read something new in Scripture or listen to a new sermon for that spiritual spark, sometimes we just need to meditate on what we already know to be true. This is especially important for those of us who are readers and think that we just need one more insight. We may just need to reflect on the cross and the love of Jesus Christ.

5) Tell Someone. Spiritual leaders struggle greatly with telling someone else about their spiritual dryness. Maybe because we feel the pressure to always be "on" or maybe just because we are full of pride and hate to admit that we are not craving God as we should, we tend to hide our dryness behind religious language. We should reject this as vanity and tell someone close to us that we are dry spiritually so that they can pray for us.

6) Pray. In the final equation, only God by His Spirit can grant us the grace we need to pursue Him with all our hearts. Knowing this, we should ask God for anything that is lacking in our walk with Him. He is faithful and will answer.

Hope that helps when you are in that dry place. I've been there many times, but God has always been gracious to lead me out. May He do the same for you -

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Awesome Time of the Year

I have to confess that October is one of my favorite months of the year. It brings...

1) Cooler weather (and this year wetter weather!) - after a brutally hot and dry summer here in Austin, we are ready for some cool, wet weather. My attitude always seems to improve a little bit as the weather changes - not a lot, just a little.

2) Baseball playoffs - though the Rangers couldn't make it this year (they did give us a great season), the baseball playoffs are still great to watch. The crowds are huge and energetic - the players are at their peak - and every game matters.

3) Holidays are close - the holiday season is so much fun at home and at church - I just look forward to it with great expectation every year. And October seems to be the month that starts the discussions - what are we doing for the holidays, where are we going, what are we doing for the kids - all so fun. And everyone gets some much-needed time off.

4) More people outside - seems like every night, our neighbors are hanging out outside in the street with each other since the weather has turned, the kids are playing, the parents talking - just an awesome time to connect with more people.

5) Dreaming for the next year - we do our ministry planning for the next year in October of each year, and though planning and budgeting can be tedious at times, I love dreaming about the future and trying new things - all of that starts in October. We even do some planning for our family next year - and this one will be big since next next May is ten years of marriage.

What's your favorite time of the year?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Gifted Hands

Barie and I watched a great movie last weekend called Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson story. Ben grew up from humble origins to be a director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins University. His story is quite incredible and well told in this movie. Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays the adult Dr. Carson, though much of the story is about his childhood and the influence of his mother in shaping his hunger to learn and his Christian faith. Check out this promo video...