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Solitude and Spiritual Strength

June 14th, 2009

“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed”

(Mark 1:35, KJV)

We sometimes look upon the whole monastic movement of historic Christianity as an aberrant form of the faith, and in many respects this is accurate (see 1 Tim. 4:1-8).  However, there is something spiritually profound about spending personal time alone with God with disciplined regularity (see Matt. 6:6).   The Lord gives spiritual strength to the spiritually seeking.  David said, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (1 Chron. 16:11).

It is this strength through solitude that Jesus models for us:

1.                   Matt. 4:1-11      When preparing for public ministry

2.                   Matt. 14:13       Upon news of the death of John

3.                   Matt. 14:23       When pressed by the crowds

4.                   Lk. 6:12-13       Before choosing the twelve

5.                   Jn. 6:14-15        When confronted with others’ agenda

Psalm 46:10 still remains significant:

“Be still and know that I am God”

Be still and know

Be still

Be

-Robert M. Housby

The Moon

March 21st, 2009

Do you have a Christian worldview about the Moon? Look up into the night sky with the following data in mind (Ps. 19:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:5,NASB).

1. Gen. 1:14-16 (the principal luminary of the night has interdependence with the sun)

2. Ps. 72:5 (both the sun and the moon are expressions of permanence)

3. Ps. 8:3 (the moon is the work of the Lord; set it in place by him)

4. Mk. 13:24 (portrayed as eclipsed at the coming of the Son of Man)

5. Matt. 4:24 (the moon is associated with mental affliction, literally “moon-struck” (from selena, the moon = lunatics, NASB Zondervan Interlinear.  Other translations interpret as epileptic, etc.)

6. Ps. 121:5 (the moon was once thought to influence the mind-loony thinking).

7. Job 31:26-28 (the moon is associated with idolatry-worship; Nanna, Sumerian/named Sin by the Assyrians)

8. The moon’s appearance is that of highlands (craters); maria (lava); mnt. ranges (debris); and, valleys (1000’s of km).  The moon is geologically dead.  Its average distance from Earth is 3.8 x 10.   It is the only satellite of the Earth.  Its diameter is 3,476 km./ .25 that of Earth’s.    All lunar rocks are formed by cooling lava (igneous).  Its gravity is 1/6 that of Earth’s.  Its period of rotation is 27 1/3 days; period of revolution is 29 ½ days.

9. Four Major Theories of Lunar Origin – (1)  Condensation (same material and time of formation as Earth)  (2)  Fission (the moon was once part of the Earth and split away)  (3)  Capture (a separate stellar object captured by Earth’s gravity, and (4)  Large impact theory (a Mars sized object hit Earth; splashed off and formed the moon).

-Robert M. Housby

Blessedness of the Ordinary

June 1st, 2008

“And the common people heard him gladly”

(Mark 12:37)

Mark 12:37 is translated in the American Standard Version (1901)-“And the common people heard him gladly.” Warrant for translating the crowd as “the common people” is based largely upon the use of the definite article, “the,” in the Greek text (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 213).  Furthermore, the American Standard Version even translates John 12:9-“The common people therefore of the Jews…,” where the article is absent.  While John 12:12 has “the common people” in the margin (ASV).    While not all of the scribes were equally bad (see Mark 12:28,34), the general tendency of their professional religious circle had degenerated into ostentation, avarice, and hypocrisy (C.E. Graham Swift, The New Bible Commentary Revised, ed. Donald Guthrie, 878).  Still, we must not rush to conclude that there were no individuals of upper-class drawn to Christ, both during and after his life (John 3:1; Lk. 1:3; Acts 6:7).  These common people, however, nearly all consented to his death when put under pressure (“and the crowd…”Mark 15:8,11).

The backdrop of the Sermon on the Mount remains a shining moment in the life of Christ when “the crowd” followed him with eagerness and hung on his every word (Matt. 4:25; 5:1).  Jesus was a prophet who pronounced blessing upon the common people; and, he did so in such a way that it is written of his style, “no man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).

-Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, blessing, Mark, New Testament, ordinary Tags:

Repentance

March 25th, 2007

“…repent and believe in the gospel”

(Mark 1:15)

John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4). The apostle Paul explained John’s ministry in Acts 19:4—“And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus”. In Mark 1:15, Jesus equates the nearness of the kingdom of God with the gospel, and then urges that men “…repent and believe in the gospel.” Notice, here, that repentance and belief stand together.

We may ask, what is repentance? Whatever it is, John and Jesus made it a requirement. If it is a requirement, and it certainly is (see Luke 13:1-5), how may we better understand and appreciate repentance for what it is?

1. It assumes that men have the capacity and ability to repent. This appears to stem from the continuity of Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6)—where man is declared to be made in the likeness of God. The Bible suggests that God has, himself, at various intervals of sacred history repented (see Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:35). Although, it must be remembered that a change of mind (or, reversal of a former decision) does not negate God’s unchangeable nature (see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6). Some modern philosophies of determinism do not accept the above proposition that man can repent. Rather, many today are being told that they are not responsible and therefore repentance is not necessary: Environmental Determinism; Genetic Determinism; Theological Determinism.
2. Repentance is more than sorrow and religious ritualism
(2 Cor. 7:10; Matthew 3:1-12).
3. Repentance produces fruit (Matthew 3:8).
4. Repentance is rewarded in this life and the life to come (Acts 3:19-20).

-Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, Mark, New Testament, repentance Tags:

A Clear and Present Danger

October 22nd, 2006

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin—for they had said, He has an unclean spirit”

(Mark 3:28-30)

Mark 3:28-30 is a disturbing passage of Scripture. Often, during Bible-based discussions, someone will ask about this passage and the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We have heard many explanations of it; one which even hints at the idea as being antiquated and no longer a possibility. In the pluralistic culture of our times, where all religions are of equal value, and political correctness is quick to point out bigoted statements, a reconsideration of Mark 3:28-30 may very much be in order.

Text         Teaching                Cultural Reaction

Mk. 3:28     “I say to you”          Jesus was just a man.
Mk. 3:28     “all sins”              Sin is nothing but social problems.
Mk. 3:28     “blasphemies”           Do not apply in the modern world.
Mk. 3:29     “the Holy Spirit”       One spirit is as good as another.
Mk. 3:29     “forgiveness”           If there is a God, he will forgive all.
Mk. 3:29     “guilty”                Guilt is just psychological neurosis.
Mk. 3:29     “an eternal sin”        When one dies, life is over.
Mk. 3:30     “an unclean spirit”     Just more religious gibberish.

What do all of the above cultural reactions have in common?

1. Rejection of Jesus as a prophet.
2. Displacement of biblical faith in favor of psychology and sociology.
3. Assuming that the General Theory of Evolution is correct.
4. Reducing Christianity to a non-credible and laughable world view.

Mark 3:28-30 is a disturbing passage—and it should be!

– Robert M. Housby

Categories: Bible, blasphemy, Mark, New Testament, Spirit Tags:

“Shake Off the Dust”

February 27th, 2005

“And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave,
shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them”

(Mark 6:11)

The word “dust” occurs seven times in the New Testament (Strong’s 286). Most of these uses are about moving on after attempting to communicate the gospel where it was not welcomed. For example, in Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas were harshly treated in Antioch in Pisidia. They actually drove them out of the city (13:50). It was at this point that they [Paul and Barnabas] actually carried out the Lord’s directive to “shake off the dust…as a testimony against them.” Acts 13:51 records: “But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.” Notice in the next verse, Acts 13:52, that “the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Active Christians know what it is like to invest in people, only to have those same individuals show ingratitude or simply not respond to the gospel. It is important, therefore, that Christians understand that those who reject them are actually rejecting the Lord (see Ex. 16:8; 1 Sam. 8:7; Lk. 10:16; Jn. 12:48). We mustn’t stop investing in people; believing in the best, while being prepared for the worst. We might recommend that every Christian take to heart the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the
Lord your labor is not in vain.”

The Bible plainly teaches that not all will be interested in the gospel; and even those who are curious may never become committed (Matthew 7:14,21). So, remember to dust off, look up, and move on. The Lord is with you (Matthew 28:20).

-Robert M. Housby

Categories: Mark, New Testament Tags:

“Does Matthew 28:16-20 Apply Today?”

December 19th, 2004

(Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-9)

 

Does the Great Commission, as found at the end of the gospels, have legitimate application to members of the Lord’s church today? We were asked this question most recently. What follows is an attempt to demonstrate why we think the Great Commission does have legitimate application to the church today, beyond “the eleven” of Matthew 28:16.

1. The Great Commission is different from the Limited Commission. The Limited Commission is not to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), but only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5). So, to begin with, any legitimate application of the Great Commission must concede this essential point of difference.

2. Second, biblical context and biblical content should harmonize. Does Matthew 28:16, with its reference to “the eleven,” negate any other applications beyond the eleven? While careful exegesis cannot allow all specifics to apply indiscriminately (for example, the miraculous element of the Great Commission, Mark 16:17-20, does not have continuity with the church in all ages), nevertheless, when the content of the message exceeds the immediate recipients of the message, there is then a warrant for a broader application [antecedent and application should agree]. Even the Limited Commission had extended applications beyond “the twelve” of Matthew 10:5 (See Luke 10:1 regarding the “seventy”). On harmonizing context and content, take the example of Genesis 12:1-3. Here, Abraham is the only proper grammatical recipient of the message. Nevertheless, it would be improper to suggest that Genesis 12 had no legitimate application to Israel. Why? Simply because the context and content of Genesis 12 extends beyond Abraham.
3. Third, Matthew 28:20 is a mandate to perpetuate apostolic doctrine; and, the most immediate application of 28:20 is 28:19. To say that 28:20 refers to most everything except 28:19 appears problematic. Matthias, for example, was not one of “the eleven” of Matthew 28:16; still, the Great Commission, as stated in Matthew
28:18-20 would compose the very substance of Matthias’ apostolic ministry. And, if we admit a twelfth, what of those whom Matthias taught (see 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Thess. 2:15)?

We conclude that the Great Commission applies to the church today.

– Robert M. Housby

“The Cave of John the Baptist”

August 22nd, 2004

(Newsbreak: Wednesday August 18, 2004)

 

“This is he of whom it is written,
Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
Who will prepare your way before you”

(Luke 7:27, ESV)

The Toronto Star (Wednesday August 18, 2004) recently reported, “Archaeologists said Monday they have found a cave where they believe John the Baptist anointed many of his disciples—a huge cistern with 28 steps leading to an underground pool of water. During a tour of the cave, archaeologists presented wall carvings they said tell the story of the fiery New Testament preacher…British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who supervised the dig… said the cave was carved in the Iron Age, somewhere between 800 and 500 B.C., by the Israelites, who apparently used it as an immersion pool. It apparently was adopted by John the Baptist, who wanted a place where he could bring people to undergo their rituals. Gibson further posited, “…a foot washing stone… also constituted strong circumstantial evidence that John used the cave ” (Karen Laub, Associated Press).

Essentially, then, this discovering speculates that (1) John the Baptist used this cave, and (2) He used the cave for religious ritual purposes. The evidence seems to center around: a. the cave’s proximity to John’s home (Ain Karim) b. carvings which seemingly depict the life of John, and c. that the cistern easily coincides with John’s baptismal ministry. However, Matthew and Mark report that John
baptized, “…in the river Jordan” (Matthew 3:6;Mark 1:5); secondly, near Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28); and, thirdly, “… in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). If a cave was a part of his ministry we are not told. We are told in Scripture, however, that John “was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light” (John 1:8).

As the world media delights in this latest discovery of a cave near Jerusalem, we, as Christians, remember an empty tomb.

–Robert M. Housby

Categories: baptism, John, Luke, Mark, Matthew Tags:

“The Four Winds of Heaven”

July 25th, 2004

(Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; 8:8; 11:4;
Zechariah 2:6; 6:4,5; Mark 13:27; Revelation 7:1)

“Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these my lord? And the angel answered and
said unto me, These are the four winds of heaven, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”

(Zechariah 6:4,5)

Sometimes the people of God need a reminder that their work really matters. The apostle Paul said, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). The Bible communicates that God, himself, is very interested in what happens on earth. One such figure of speech expressing God’s interest and participation in what happens on earth is, “the four winds of heaven”. This is a universal expression of cosmological vastness.

“Wind” is from the biblical word, ruach. The wind is a creation of God (Amos 4:13). The Spirit of God uses physical breath and wind to fulfill his great purposes for mankind (Genesis 1:2; 2:7; Ezekiel 37:5,6, 14).
1. The north wind (ruach tsawphon) – is associated with cold conditions (Job 37:9)
2. The south wind (ruach darom) – is often destructive, sultry and withering (James 1:11; Job 37:9)
3. The east wind (ruach qadim) – is portrayed as strong, gusty and scorching (Jeremiah 18:17; Hosea 13:15).
4. The west wind (ruach yam) – associated with storm and rain (1 Ki. 18:44,45).

The churches of Christ are involved in a universal mission (Eph. 3:10,11). This universal sense may be seen in Acts 2:2,5,6,17. Although difficult to conceive (John 3:9), Jesus is reassuring about this kingdom (John 3:8). May the four
winds of heaven, which loom large in Scripture and in Space, find their place in us as well. The church must see herself as involved in the awesome and universal power of God

–Robert M. Housby