Pastor Scott's Blog

(for more blog entries, go to:  http://jcctracy.blogspot.com )

02/16/18 - Mark 6

Feb 16, 2018 – Mark 6

He said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31

The answer to busy-ness is not often sleep, but a quiet time of restoration with Jesus.

The disciples had been on a high-speed whirlwind tour around the district of Galilee.  After traveling the towns setting up Jesus for His arrival, and supporting Jesus in the miracles & crowds, they were already tired.  Then news came of the death of John the Baptist, and grief & sadness added to their exhaustion.  Jesus was overwhelmed too, and recognized their exhaustion, so He gave them the advice ALL of us have heard or said in our lifetime – “you need some rest”.  That usually means: “get some sleep, lay down, plop on the couch, watch some TV and snack on some chips”, all things to let the body physically rest.  But that’s NOT what the disciples ended up doing.  Instead, they had to row their boat and travel to find a solitary place.  And if that wasn’t enough, thousands show up and Jesus ends up teaching all day, then asks the disciples to feed this large crowd.  I thought the idea was to relax and lay under a tree – not do more work!

We say Rest and mean Sleep – but Rest is short for Restoration.  Sleep can restore our physical bodies with some energy, but often it doesn’t help give relief to our minds or souls.  Often what restores our minds is not sleep, but effective play or activity.  And what restores our souls can be sleep, but more often it involves comfort & encouragement by life-giving people.  If we’re looking for restoration, it may not be found in a bed or couch.  It may rather be found on a playground, or with a friend in a coffee shop. 

Yet busy people often complain that they need more rest – and keep growing more tired & exhausted no matter how much sleep they get.  That’s why the person who’s mind is exhausted doesn’t sleep well, because what they really need is a walk in the park or time on the fishing boat.  That’s why the person grieving is often looking for something mindless to DO, like cleaning a room or washing dishes (which is what we keep trying to TAKE AWAY FROM THEM in an effort to be helpful).

What Restoration do you need these days?  Are you exhausted physically, or is it weariness from something in your soul or mind?  What activities restore you – it may not be sleep!  Yes, physically you need rest by sleep, but emotionally & intellectually you need restoration in other ways.

All of these had one thing in common for the disciples – Jesus was there, and He knew what they needed.  Restoration came in rowing a boat, and in listening to Truth, and in feeding 1000s of people.  And following that, the disciples got to see Jesus walk on water!  I doubt they were thinking about sleeping during those miracles … but their spirits were certainly not grieving the same as before.  They discovered something … with Jesus around, you will find restoration that’s far better than just sleep.
02/15/18 - Mark 5

Feb 15, 2018 – Mark 5

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told him, "Don't be afraid; just believe." Mark 5:36

Trust the word of an eternal God over the opinion of limited men.

There’s a difference between ignorance & ignoring, but sometimes people try to hide behind one to escape the consequences of the other.

Ignorance is action without knowledge.  It’s when we make a decision based on the information we have, but the information is incomplete.  Ignorance is when we believe a reporter without checking the facts.  Ignorance is when we follow our friend’s prescription without confirming the results.  Ignorance can have consequences, but the fault lies not in the action, but in the information.

But Ignoring is action in spite of knowledge.  Ignoring has heard the information, but chooses to believe differently and take a different course of action.  Ignoring is when we hear the reporter and choose to believe a different story.  Ignoring is when we listen to our friend’s prescription and follow a different course of action.  Ignoring can also have consequences, but the fault likes in our decision, not the information.

Jesus CONSTANTLY ignored, but was never ignorant.  He rejected the world’s standard of popularity and pursued His Father.  He ignored the pressure of the Pharisees and spent time with the common people.  Jesus never let the opinions of others get in the way of God’s Truth.  That doesn’t mean Jesus ignored people, He simply ignored their opinions when it contradicted God’s direction.  Jesus was far from ignorant, but He carefully ignored many other things.

Unfortunately, the world likes to lump Christians into the “ignorance” category.  Their argument is that believers of Jesus have no clue about the truth, and lack the knowledge they have.  Much like Jesus, believers can find themselves being condemned as ignorant and uneducated. 

But that’s not who we are.  Ignorance is not the description of a committed believer, but Ignoring sure is.  If we choose to follow Jesus, we must also choose to ignore all of the arguments and expectations of the world around us when it practices behaviors that contradict God’s ways.  And YES, that includes things like accepting sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, drunkenness, smoking pot, cussing, going into debt, no-fault divorce, and everything else contrary to Scripture.  That doesn’t make the Christian ignorant, just ignoring.

Listen to Jesus’ words to the Jarius.  The world said his daughter was dead, but Jesus ignored them and told Jarius: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”  The secret to overcoming worldly arguments is to push out the fear instead of pushing out obedience.  Don’t ever let the opinions of men trump your belief in the Word of God!!!  Ignore their limited opinions, and trust in the Eternal.  That’s not ignorance, it’s ignoring.
02/14/18 - Mark 4

Feb 14, 2018 – Mark 4

Others hear the word; but the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for things choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19

Don't let temporary desires steal your blessing from His eternal Word.

Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday centered on love.  It’s a day in the year when many people take time to express loving sentiments to each other, often in the form of cards, gifts, flowers, a meal, or other forms of kindness.  Yet it often ends up being more about fulfilling our desires than sharing our love.  The truth is that love is less about kind expressions and more about unseen actions.  Love is not about flowers, but about brightening up a room.  It is not about chocolates, but offering sweet words when poor attitudes are present.  Love gives gifts, but not with the anticipation of response.  Love is more often seen in making a person’s lunch than buying a person dinner.  Long after Valentine’s Day is over, love will still be going strong, while the flowers will have wilted and chocolates rotted.

The Bible is a Valentine’s Day love letter to all of us from God Himself.  Every chapter is filled with God’s story to show us His love and desire for our best.  Yet so often, people hear the words and ignore them, preferring the chocolates and flowers that this world offers.  The deception of sentimentality can draw our ears and hearts away from true love toward the temporary substitute. 

That deception is our greatest challenge in America these days.  We are drawn to the chocolates & flowers of life, and ignoring the true love letter from God.   The worries and wealth are rotting God’s seed, and leaving behind a whole lot of empty lives.  Sure, it smelled & tasted great when we received them, but the flowers & chocolates are not love.  What we need is a new perspective.  What we need is true love.

I hope you enjoy Valentine’s Day this year – not because you feel loved and cherished by the gifts or experience, but because you KNOW you are loved by God Himself.  I hope you celebrate that love by offering true love to your family – the love that comes from sacrifice and service that honors God.  And if you’re married, I hope you do enjoy Valentine’s Day as a reminder of this special gift that God gave us when He created Eve for Adam.  But don’t let that be one day wrapped in sentimentality.  Let Valentine’s Day remind you to turn back to the true love that only comes from God.  Let it be a day you start a fresh longing for His Love Letter to you.  Let it be a day you rededicate yourself to the one who loves you forever.

May you be filled with the fruit of love from His Word.
02/13/18 - Mark 3

Feb 13, 2018 – Mark 3

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:25

The answer to our relationship problems is not in winning arguments, but eliminating divisions.

Stanford hospitals has a number of buildings, developed over the years at this incredible institution.  Two of the wings were built at the same time by different general contractors.  In the midst of the construction, it was discovered that the measurements were incorrect, and the building floors were misaligned, leaving a significant gap.  Government inspectors challenged the work and expected the contractors to tear down one of the buildings in order to make the correction.  But through negotiation, the building contractors were able to build a hallway ramp between wings so that the buildings could work.  That hallway ramp is a reminder that arguments don’t correct gaps, cooperation does.

Most arguments center around defending our positions, not seeking to eliminate gaps.  Trying to prove we are right may get our position heard, but seldom eliminates the gap between us.  If we are going to eliminate the gap, we must negotiate a ramp to connect us.  That doesn’t necessarily mean compromising truth or changing structures, but may mean figuring out how to deal with the reality and move closer together.

Jesus was being accused of satanic activity when people were being healed by His power.  While that may seem ridiculous to us, it is not beyond Satan to use miracles as a way of drawing people away from God.  But Jesus wasn’t healing to create a following for Himself, His healings were to bring glory to the Father.   Jesus wasn’t trying to divide the kingdom, His purpose was to unite it.  While the Pharisees were arguing to create a gap between themselves & Jesus, Jesus was working to close the gap between God & man. 

Relationships start with gaps.  Dating is trying to learn more about each other to reduce the gap between a guy and a girl.  Orientation is an organization’s effort to close the gap of knowledge between employees and the company.  And Jesus came to eliminate the gap between God & man.  Jesus could have won any argument, but instead He eliminated the division.

What if we approached arguments and disagreements the same way?  What if instead of trying to prove our rightness, we tried to reduce our separateness?  How about instead of trying to win the disagreement, we tried to eliminate the division?  Maybe we would discover a taste of what love is really about – eliminating the gap.

That hallway ramp in Stanford Hospitals is a constant reminder of true relationship, eliminating the separation between buildings.  The cross is also a constant reminder of true relationship, eliminating the separation between God & man.   Don’t be a divided house, build a ramp of unity.
02/12/18 - Mark 2

Feb 12, 2018 – Mark 2

“A wise person pours new wine into new wineskins." Mark 2:22

Wise people don’t make principles out of methods, they design methods out of goals.

People have this tendency to make principles out of methods.  When we do that, it creates safety for insiders of the method, but exclusion for everyone else. 

That was the point Jesus was making when He started talking about wineskins.  In Jesus’ day, grapes were harvested and juice extracted to make wine by storing it in leather skins.  These skins would be sewn together and filled with the juice, and stored until it became alcohol.  As the juice ferments, it expands, putting pressure on the seams of the wineskin.  If old wineskins were used, the seams would burst and the wine would be lost.  That’s why wise people used new wineskins for new wine.  Their strength would hold and the juice would ferment.  Yet this practice was not followed consistently.  Often less wise people would try to reuse the wineskins in order to save cost.  Sometimes it worked, other times it failed.  The principle was about wine-making, but the method was about cost-saving.  Put the method in front of the principle and you miss out on the goal.

People do the same with methods.   Organizations use old processes and wonder why customers leave for new companies.  Schools stick with textbooks and wonder why student education continues to decline.  Governments increase taxes to pay for old programs and wonder why they can’t fund new initiatives.  Churches turn music, preaching structure, programming and leadership structure into principles, and then wonder why new generations don’t embrace our church.  When methods get turned into principles, the overall goal is lost.

Jesus calls all of us to stop focusing on the methods and start focusing on the goal.  Our goal is to bring glory to God, not create security for ourselves.  Our goal is to draw others to Jesus, not spend time building up our short-lived retirements.  Yet we get so focused on the methods we miss the goal.

Take a look at your life and rethink your methods.   Are the methods driving your goals, or the goals driving your methods?   Is it time to try some new wineskins?   

Wise people don’t make principles out of methods, they design methods out of goals.