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Monday, January 5, 2009

A Savior, Discipleship, and a Cross

Now that we have just come out of the Christmas season our focus can return to the things of every day, normal life again. No more hustle and bustle. No more over commercialization. Everything is just back to normal. We no longer have to think about Christmas. After all Christmas doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the year... or does it?

In the church we know that the real meaning of Christmas, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, does not just have implications for December 25th. We are not simply celebrating Jesus birthday. Rather, Jesus' birthday is only the beginning of our focus on Christ. And this focus is to encompass our whole lives. Christ's coming at Christmas is only the beginning of the story of what God has done to save us, and the rest of the story is our focus as we leave Christmas and move towards Good Friday and then Easter.

In our church we follow what is called the Church Calendar where we celebrate various holidays to keep our eyes fixed on Christ's life. This year we are going to try and tie these celebrations in together. As we have finished a short study on Isaiah to prepare us for Christ's coming during Advent and celebrated His arrival at Christmas, we will now follow him from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb. For the next couple of months, we are going to be caught up into the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of St. Mark. From January through April we will be hearing from Mark's Gospel about who Jesus was and what He came to do for the salvation of the world.

In our Wednesday Bible class we have been studying Mark rather closely for the last few months. We have found that Mark can be broken up into three parts: Mark 1:1-8:21 where we learn who Christ is (a Savior), Mark 8:22-10:52 where we learn what it means to follow Christ (Discipleship), and Mark 11:1-16:8 (or 20) where we learn why Christ came (a Cross). Mark, by telling this story, is set on convincing His readers that Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Son of God.

Join us as we are caught up into the gospel story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Follow Him from His baptism through the roads of Capernaum and the Decapolis as he heals this sick and raises the dead. Watch in amazement as He performs miracles for the poor and confounds the proud. Learn with the disciples what it means to take up your cross and follow Him. Weep as He is taken to the cross and mourn as He is crucified. And wonder at the mystery of the empty tomb. And through it all, learn what it means to confess that truly, this Jesus is the Son of God! This is why we celebrate Christ's birth at Christmas, because we know it leads to an empty tomb on Easter!

Pastor Bob

Speaking of Jesus: The Gospel of Mark and Sharing the Faith

As noted in the Pastor's column, this month we are beginning a long series on the Gospel of Mark. This will be a wonderful series in which we will see the purpose of Christ's coming which we have just finished celebrating at Christmas! This book, I think, can be very helpful for us as we try to find ways to talk about Jesus with our friends. It used to be, when folks would go door-to-door to share the Gospel, they would take little copies of the Gospel of John with them to hand out. This is a great idea with all the right intentions. God's Word is powerful and can change hearts. But, I think, John is a better book to hand out to someone who we are close with so we can sit down with them and work through it. Much of the imagery and language in that book is a bit inaccessible to those who do not know Christ, and so, part of our job as those who have been sent is to explain what it means, for example, for Jesus to be "the bread of life" or "the good shepherd."

However, Mark, I think, is a much more accessible book for those who do not know much about the Christian faith or do not believe at all. The stories are simple and straight forward. Mark likely wrote the book with an evangelistic purpose. He wanted people to know who Jesus was. You will notice as you read through Mark that Jesus will perform miracles or forgive sins and the question will constantly come up, "Who is this man?" Mark includes this question in order to put it in the mouth of the reader, so as we witness Jesus act on the pages of Mark's Gospel we are forced to ask, "Who is this man?" And Mark leaves no doubt in our minds, this man is the Son of God come to save the world from sin and the devil!

Mark's goal is our goal when we set out to share our faith, that is, to introduce people to Jesus so they may know who He is and why He has come for them and believe. That is why this is an ideal book to have your friend read when you are sharing the faith with them. They will be forced to ask (maybe, Lord willing, even ask you!) "Who is this Jesus?" It is my prayer that as we work through this Gospel, we will be so caught up in the life of Christ, that we will not be able to help but bring others along with us for the ride!

Pastor Bob

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