Reflections on Mark 2:1-12

Mark 2:1-12 is awesome; it’s my favorite healing by Jesus. There’s so much we get to observe about Him in this passage:

Even on a day at home Jesus is speaking the gospel message.

Jesus is more concerned with forgiving sin than healing our physical diseases, but does both.

When we come to him, he sees our greatest need and cares for that.

He cannot ignore our brokenness.

Jesus is quick to act yet always deliberate. He is eager, yet never hasty.

He graciously gives us more than we could ever hope or dream to receive.

He has empathy for the humble.

He is opposed to the proud.

Jesus is displayed as God.

He reads men’s hearts, no inner thought is hidden from Him.

He has absolute power (and authority) over our infirmities.

He responds to human faith (no one who comes to Him will be cast out).

Working hard for the needs of our friends will often lead to Jesus meeting their needs. The four friends’ exertions for their friend paid off.

Take a break and read Mark 2:1-12 today:

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the scribes were sitting there, thinking to themselves: “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? ”
Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”
Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this! ””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:1-12‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Today I Was Baptized… Again

Today I was baptized… again

When I was four, I asked Jesus into my heart…or so I thought. As was only fitting, I was baptized ten month later. I understood that I belonged to Christ and should obey Him. Now that I was a good person, I ought to obey my parents, memorize Bible verses, not lust after women, and go to church, a lot.

A Whitewashed Tomb

In light of my decision to follow Jesus, I counted myself righteous. I worshipped myself. I daily bowed before the idols of comfort, pleasure, and pride. I did not cherish Christ; I revered myself. My heart was characterized by self-righteousness, selfishness, covetousness, a critical spirit, pride, and more. I was a whitewashed tomb. Even when I looked polished on the outside, I was internally corrupt.

When I was dead

Though I was dead in my trespasses and sins, and was walking according to the desires of my flesh, Christ made me alive. In many moments, over many years, the Spirit worked. A miraculous change occurred. In a moment my eyes were opened. I saw clearly that I was unrighteous. I was the Publican; I was the tax collector. God exposed my wickedness.

Now what?

Soon baptisms haunted me. I had so many questions. Had I been genuinely baptized? Was I saved when I was baptized? When did God regenerate me? Had God accepted my childish prayer, corrupt and misguided as it was?

If yes, then why did my life conflict for so long with that profession?

If no, then I needed to be baptized.

My pride prevented me from accepting the obvious truth: I was born again after I was first immersed.

Raised in Newness of life

This morning at the Ridge Covenant Church, three people came to be baptized. However, the wind didn’t blow as planned; The Spirit didn’t follow the schedule. Instead, five were buried with Christ in baptism, and I was one of them.

When Pastor Andy opened the waters of baptism to all who were willing, I knew it was time. I could no longer refuse. It was time to own the truth: I needed to be baptized. So, despite my dry-clean-only pants, I got wet.

God’s Grace

The Spirit put up with my disobedience for over nine years. He was very patient with me. How generous is God’s grace! May He call me to fuller obedience until Christ is fully formed in me.

Five Characteristics of Seraphic Worship

If you stop by a Christian bookstore today, you will notice stacks of firsthand accounts of heaven. Tourism to the New Jerusalem seems to be on the upswing. Everyone seems obsessed with getting the heavenly inside scoop. Some of these books may be entertaining, but the Bible gives a more reliable record.

Isaiah 6:1-7 HCSB

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.

The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.

Then I said:

Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said:

Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed and your sin is atoned for.

A Heavenly Worship Service

In Isaiah 6 we get to witness the prophet Isaiah as he participates in a heavenly worship service. This service is his commissioning service; Isaiah witnesses God’s glory, is horrified by his own sinfulness, is cleansed through divine action and is commissioned as a messenger of Yahweh. Here we meet the Seraphim. God has surrounded himself with these angels and appointed them to worship Him. Since this worship service was designed by God, let’s see what we can learn from how the Seraphim worship God.

Clues from the Seraphim

Read Isaiah 6:2-3 and pay special attention to any details about the Seraphim. Look to see what they may be teaching about how God desires to be worshipped. What did you discover? Here are five things we can learn from the worship of the Seraphim:

1. God should be served. These seraphim stand and fly before God. This doesn’t mean that the Seraphim have ADHD and can’t keep still. Instead we see that they are actively waiting on God. Like servants waiting around a king’s throne, they attend God. These angels aren’t chilin’ on a sofa or checking Pinterest, their focus in on serving God. Lesson: Worship requires serving God, not ourselves.

2. God should be approached with modesty.

The angels approach God with humility and reverence. They cover their eyes because God is too holy to gaze upon and they cover their bodies because they are unworthy for God to look upon them. Even these holy angels are aware that before the Almighty they are naked and must cover up. Lesson: When you approach God, recognize your lowliness before Him. Also, don’t wear a swimsuit to church!

3. God should be praised with voice.

These angels speak audibly and use words understandable to Isaiah. Lesson: God wants to be worshipped out loud with normal language.

4. God should be praised in community.

While these angels are praising God, they speak to each other. The worship of God is not just a solo activity, it is essentially communal. Lesson: Go to church! You can’t just worship by yourself.

5. God should be worshipped with truth.

First, the angels speak of God’s holiness (His uniqueness and purity). Secondly, they declare that God has revealed Himself. The heavens declare the glory of God, the Bible discloses God, and Jesus physically filled the earth as the incarnate God-man (John 1:14). God’s glory is ultimately displayed on earth in Jesus. Lesson: Praise God for who He is and What He has done. Remember the supreme revelation of God is Jesus.

 

A Psalm for Boko Haram

The past few weeks we’ve been hearing of wickedness of Boko Haram. The latest wave of evil committed by this group of militant Islamic radicals has been the kidnapping of 230 girls. CNN article on Nigeria abductions. Why were these girls abducted? Because they were seeking an education.

In my Bible reading today, I discovered an appropriate Psalm. God hates injustice; He abhors the oppression of the helpless. May the Lord fulfill Psalm 10, by vindicating His justice for His glory!

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?

      Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;

      let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,

      and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;

      all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

His ways prosper at all times;

      your judgments are on high, out of his sight;

      as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;

      throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;

      under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

He sits in ambush in the villages;

      in hiding places he murders the innocent.

His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;

      he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;

      he lurks that he may seize the poor;

      he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

The helpless are crushed, sink down,

      and fall by his might.

He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,

      he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;

      forget not the afflicted.

Why does the wicked renounce God

      and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,

      that you may take it into your hands;

to you the helpless commits himself;

      you have been the helper of the fatherless.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;

      call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The Lord is king forever and ever;

      the nations perish from his land.

Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;

      you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

      to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

      so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

 

(Psalm 10)

Pray for the Persecuted Church

Pray for the persecuted church today!

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18-25)

140430054144-china-church-demolished-story-top

China seeks to tear down the Christian church. Evidence: church building demolished by the Chinese government, CNN article.

The world may tear down our buildings but God is building a spiritual house–the temple of the living God–in the hearts of His people. The church is His people. No building permit is needed. States unleash the wreckers, but no bulldozer can stop the church. There is no authority on earth or under heaven which can delay the construction schedule of God’s house. Jesus promises He will build His church and even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!

So many Christian suffer so much for Christ. May we never forget them!

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)

Book Review: Pulling Back the Shades

pulling-back-the-shadesby Erik Martin

When I was asked to review Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery’s new book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, I must admit I had mixed feelings. I am not an experienced literary critic and this book–written by women, for women, about women–seemed outside my area of expertise. However, the noxious and pervasive nature of erotica today caused me to pause. The mainstream acceptance of E. L. James’ Fifty Shades series told me that Gresh and Slattery’s book was worth a review.

I must admit I’ve never read any of E.L. James’ works. After reading Pulling Back the Shades, I am even more confident in denouncing such literature. Gresh and Slattery expose the inescapable perils of reading 50 Shades of Grey.

I was able to easily read Pulling Back the Shades in about two hours. It’s graceful writing style and compact size makes it manageable for even the reticent reader.

True Satisfaction

Gresh and Slattery refuse to shrink back from hard answers, even those unpopular or politically incorrect. They hold up the Word of God as authoritative, even today, to speak into the lives of Christian women. This is not just a book attacking 50 Shades of Grey, but a guide for finding genuine satisfaction. Gresh and Slattery seek true sexual intimacy–within marriage–as a picture of a Christ-follower’s intimacy with his or her Master.

Gresh and Slattery call for revival. As they write, “this book is about the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of women.” They want women to treasure Christ alone. He is the consummation of all the desires of the female heart.

Practical Yet Prudent

Both Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery work diligently to be circumspect. They attempt to be as vague as possible about the details of erotica, while also trying to address the problems associated with the different facets of fornication fantasy. The nature of this subject requires them to delve into more detail than would be preferred, but detail which seems necessary.

Gresh and Slattery’s book is fiercely practical. It disarms those who justify erotica. It is a great resource for those entrapped in sexual sin and seeking sexual healing. While the book is targeted towards women, many of the principles should be employed by men as they also seek sexual purity.

Pulling Back the Shades is filled with helpful discussion questions which make the book a practical devotional. It features an appendix with useful resources for accountability, online filtering, Christian therapy, and other helpful books. A second appendix is filled with valuable strategies for overcoming temptation.

Conclusions:

I would strongly recommend this book for those who entertain or endorse erotica. I also think it would be helpful for those tempted to read 50 Shades of Grey. I also recommend it for those who wish to counsel women who struggle in these areas.

I would definitely not recommend Pulling Back the Shades for everyone. It is not appropriate for children or those who are innocent about erotica. It would expose the naive to areas of sin they do not even realize exist.

If you struggle with sexual purity, frequent erotic literature, or struggle with Christ’s lordship over your sexuality, then you will find this book helpful. As with any book on sex, read carefully and prudently. Gresh and Slattery seek to help you navigate troubled waters. Don’t be cavalier, or you may fall even deeper into the bondage of sin.

May King Jesus be glorified in your mind and body!

Providence – Part 2 – Human Responsibility

by Erik Martin

-Continued from yesterday-

9. Human responsibility is compatible with divine sovereignty.

Despite God’s sovereignty, man and the fallen angels are responsible for sin and evil. God superintends evil, yet it is always performed by someone else.[1]

God hardened Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21) as Pharaoh hardened himself (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34). God ordained Pharaoh’s hardening but Pharaoh freely did the hardening. The Bible is clear that Pharaoh alone is responsible; the Scriptures leave no room for assessing God with culpability. In fact, God was incensed by Pharaoh’s rebellious hardening and God’s ethical purity reacted in searing judgment.

God decrees evil events without obliterating comprehensive human responsibility for those same events. Calvin argues: “We must not suppose that there is a violent compulsion, as if God dragged [the perpetrators of evil] against their will; but in a wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men, so that they still have the exercise of their will.”[2] God does not determine the future by forcing people to act against their nature or in opposition to their wills. Calvin summarizes, “While God accomplishes through the wicked what He has decreed by His secret judgment, they are not excusable, as if they obeyed his precept which out of their own lust they deliberately break.” [3]

10. Example: Jesus’ Execution

The most horrific injustice of eternity is a prime example. It was God’s will to crush His Son (Isaiah 53:10), yet the Jews intrigued, Satan plotted, Pilate endorsed, and the Roman soldiers carried out Jesus’ crucifixion. All these irreverent actors are held responsible for their wicked, depraved, cowardly or mindless deeds (Matthew 26:24; Acts 2:23, 3:14; 4:27; 7:52; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Yet nothing happened except what “the hand and plan” of God had decreed (Acts 4:28). Even as Herod and Pilate conspired, God brought the fulfillment of His Word (Acts 3:18). Nevertheless, the human actors were condemned for their decisions and actions and God is only praised for His faithfulness and righteousness.

Part 1: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/18/providence1/


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994),  323

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 1.10.15.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.18.4.

Providence – Part 1 – God’s Interactions with Good and Evil

By Erik Martin

Thesis: God sovereignly ordains and governs all things even as man is fully responsible for his actions.       

1. God directly sends all that is good.

He is responsible for all blessings for He is the source of every good thing (Psalm 145:17; James 1:13-14). Nothing favorable comes apart from God (Psalm 16:2). All blessings originate in and then emanate from His nature. Goodness overflows from His essence. God cannot help but bless.

2. The Lord governs and controls evil.

God is sovereign over all things, even darkness and disaster (Isaiah 45:7). However, God does not analogously govern good and evil. Though God stands behind and causes good, D.A. Carson points out, “God is never presented as an accomplice of evil or as secretly malicious, or as standing behind evil in exactly the same way he stands behind good.”[1]

3. God’s perpetration of good and His dominion over evil are asymmetrical.

While God ordain evil, He does not desire evil. God does not permit evil in general, but every instance of evil that occurs, He allows and uses. No evil is gratuitous for God can limit evil’s extent and stop it completely.

4. Even Satan requires God’s permission to bring suffering.

The devil was unable to inflict Job without God’s authorization and was limited to the boundaries set by God (Job 1:12). When Satan desired to escalate his abuse, He was forced to first petition God (Job 2:6). In the New Testament, the demons in Mark 5 required Jesus’ permission to enter a herd of swine (Mark 5:12-13).

5. God even uses evil to defeat itself.

He hardened the hearts of the abominable Canaanites to destroy them (Deuteronomy 2:30). God prevented the pagans from suing for peace so He could pour out His retributive justice (Joshua 11:20). He handles the nations like men manipulate tools (Isaiah 10:5).

6. God’s irreproachable sovereignty over evil is displayed throughout scripture.

David credits God for punishing him through Shimei’s sin (2 Samuel 16:10-11). God killed Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:34) and brought the defection of the northern ten tribes (1 Kings 11:31). God ordained the destruction of the first temple and Jerusalem because of Israel’s idolatry (Isaiah 28:21). Isaiah writes that God whistles or trumpets the wicked to war (Isaiah 5:26; 7:18).

It is the Lord’s authority that rouses the nations from their slumber (Hosea 8:1; Zephaniah 2:1). The Assyrians are the rod of God’s just wrath (Isaiah 10:5) and He wields the peoples as His judgment ax (Matthew 3:10). God turns the hearts of kings (Prov. 21:1) and the hearts of all men (Psalm 105:23). He makes the truthful dumb, the old imprudent and princes cowardly. God overtakes with dread, overcomes with sleep, blinds men’s minds, smites with dizziness, makes drunk with drowsiness, inflicts with madness, hardens hearts, brings blindness and insanity.[2]

7. God manages Satan

The Scriptures show God managing Satan, who cannot act outside of God’s jurisdiction. God does more than just permit Satan’s machinations; He wields Satan as a tool for His purposes. When Satan “presents himself before God” (Job 1:6; 2:1) he comes “to receive His commands” although He implements God’s will in wickedness and for destruction. Job himself recognizes that God ordained his sufferings. He testifies, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). In 1 Kings, God decrees that Ahab be deceived for purposes of judgment, and the devil volunteers for the assignment (1 Kings 22:22). It would be ludicrous for God to permit what He wills and not also decree it and command its execution by his creatures.

8. Nevertheless, God is blameless. 

God cannot be cursed or censured. He is not the source of evil, God never commits evil and He is never responsible for evil.

Part 2: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/19/providence2/


[1] D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2006), 203.

[2] (Ezek 7:26; Job. 12:24, Ps. 107:40; 106:40; Lev. 26:36; 1 Sam. 26:12; Isa. 29:14; Deut. 28:28, Zech. 12:4; Isaiah 29:10; Rom 1:28; Ex. 14:17; Rom. 1:20-14; Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 10:20, 27: 11:10; 14:8).

Six 24-hour Days: Fact or Fiction? – Part 2

By Erik Martin

-Continued from yesterday-

5. Jesus’ Teaching

Jesus also embraced a straightforward reading of Genesis 1. He affirmed the common Jewish interpretation of Genesis when He cited, without reservation, Genesis 5:2 in Matthew 19:4. If the Jews erroneously understood Genesis chapters one and two, Jesus would have corrected them as was His practice (Matthew 23:1-23; Luke 13:1-4).

Jesus was eager to correct the misinterpretations and false teaching of Second-Temple Judaism (Matthew 22:29). He firmly upheld the accuracy and truthfulness of God’s Law (John 10:35; 17:17) while also carefully fixing Jewish misconceptions by freeing the text from their bogus traditions (Matthew 5:17-19, 21-48).

6. Historical Evidence

A recent creation has always been the predominant, if not the universal, position of the people of God. A young earth was embraced by Judaism for thousands of years. A recent genesis is the universal position of the historic church. Until the Enlightenment, orthodox Christianity never questioned the Genesis account.

If God took millions of years to create and intended Christians (and Jews) to embrace an old earth, then why did He allow the church to get it wrong for 2,000 years and Judaism for the previous 1,500 years? If God created over long periods of time and then intentionally lied to His people or allowed them to misunderstand for thousands of years, then He is not truthful or good.

Furthermore, He would be an impotent communicator and the rest of His revelation is likewise unreliable and inaccurate. Furthermore, why would God finally enlighten His children to the truth by revealing it through the scientific speculations of those who hate Him? God, as a loving Father, always communicates accurately by speaking to His children through His prophets and now the Scriptures. Any other belief undermines the foundation of Christian faith. Christian epistemology requires no less.

7. Scientific Evidence

Finally, science does not actually prohibit a young earth. We have no extant humanly-generated eyewitness record of the origin of the universe. No man observed the beginning; even Adam only got in on the very end. This does not leave us in the dark. God was present and provided a reliable record.

Since no human witnessed the foundation of the world, and creation cannot be replicated, modern science can only hypothesize theories about the origins of time, matter, and life. Science applies uniformitarianism and assumes that the current patterns of the cosmos have never changed. This overlooks several important factors.

A. The earth was created without sin and sin has altered the way things work.

B. A global flood destroyed the past ecosystem and severely altered the world.

C. God created with apparent age.

He made Adam an adult, capable of naming all the animals, old enough to seek a mate, able to tend the Garden and competent to provide for His own needs.

God created the heavenly bodies as a celestial clock. Their function visibly marks out times and season requiring their light to have been instantly apparent on earth. The sun testifies to, rather than sets, the length of days. The length of a day was established on day one, not day four.

Science tries to undermine the Genesis account and gives many evidences to prop up macro-evolution. Even so, evolution cannot produce a battering ram able to definitively discredit the Genesis record. The question of origins comes down to epistemology. What do we trust as reliable? How do we know what we say we know? Do we trust the Scriptures or do we trust science?

Read part 1: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/14/what-happened/