Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bible Study Notes in James- Chapter 5

Chapter 5

-The rich who live in self-indulgence and luxury are railed against as this last chapter begins in James’ short book. These are certainly not being doers of the Word and their riches are bringing misery and hardship on them in the last days as they’ve tried to hoard it for themselves by fraud. James says these are like fattened animals beefed up for the slaughter. They have condemned and murdered the righteous when they had no power and no voice to resist (James 5:1-6). *Application* The Word of God is against the luxurious stashing away of wealth. Instead, God desires for us to work hard, earn a great living, and share our bountiful blessings with others, especially those in true need. God is not against us making money and being prosperous, but He disdains the hoarding of it for our own selfish pleasures. Don’t be miserly and dishonest with your means. Don’t ever be afraid to give generously. Hold nothing back when He asks. Build true treasure in the Heavenly Kingdom (Luke 12:16-34). We should indeed take every one of these Words of James through the Holy Spirit literally and seriously and then act on them diligently.

-Now patience is considered as the main thrust of the next five verses (James 5:7-11). We should keep an eye on the coming of the Lord as we wait. This could have double meaning in its interpretation. One meaning is obviously His glorious return to earth when all is made right and the enemy is utterly destroyed for good and forever. The other meaning can deal with how the Lord shows up in our distress and aids us just when we need it the most in certain earthly situations. In either case, it is He who comes to us for our benefit and relief. Just like the patient farmer, which is an awesome illustration, we must establish our hearts by not grumbling against one another, plus we must withhold judgment. Again it is the Judge that stands at the door, and we are not to be so arrogant as to take that role in and of ourselves (James 4:11-12). In our suffering and patience remember the prophets who were tortured for their honesty and forthrightness, enduring the persecution with perfect fortitude and steadfastness. Job is also mentioned as a classic example for discovering the everlasting purpose of the Lord in difficult situations to demonstrate His compassion and mercy after allowing strenuous tests and trials. *Application* How patient are you? The question is one we don’t often like to think about in our fast paced, easy answer, quick solution world. There are times the Lord makes us slow down. Enjoy those periods of your life rather than fight them. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

-A quick word is given on swearing of oaths. The practical implication here is for our “yes” to yes, and our “no” to be no so that we do not fall into condemnation. In other words, give honest answers all the time, but do it in love (Ephesians 4:15, James 5:12).

-The prayer of faith is discussed now as the book begins its conclusion. If you are suffering, pray. If you are cheerful, sing praise to God. If you are sick, call on the elders of the church to have them pray over you and anoint you with oil in the Name of the Lord. “The prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:15-16).” The prayers of the righteous has extraordinary power as it is working, just like Elijah of the Old Testament (James 5:13-18). *Application* Prayer is essential in the working out of our faith. To be a prayer warrior, you must do it. It is, again, an action. Go before the Lord in full conviction and earnestness. Lay everything bare before Him with confession and get things right. He will respond, you can count on that!

-The last section of this book deals with bringing back someone who has wandered off from the truth. “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering (or the error of his way, NASB) will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20).” *Application* We are to obey Jesus’ teaching on leaving the 99 sheep to go out to rescue the lost one (Luke 15:3-7). Go into the highways and byways and compel people to come back to Christ and His saving grace (Luke 14:23). Be a soul winner. This will take action as well. It is not a passive thing y’all. I hope we all get James’ point, faith without works is dead (useless, James 2:20, 26).

Verse to memorize: James 5:8, 12, 16, 20

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bible Study Notes in James- Chapter 4

Chapter 4

-Chapter four is a smorgasbord of Godly wisdom in our actions during the course of our life, which is a vapor that only appears for a little and then vanishes to eternity (James 4:14). James begins with the source of quarrels and fights, which is the passion within us for selfish desires (James 4:1). The point is made that we don’t get what we ask for often because of the motives behind our asking. We ask wrongly when we want something for our own passions (James 4:3). This makes us adulterers (cheaters on God, double-minded, insincere). Our friendship with the world is against God and His ways. We can end up being an enemy of God when we ask with selfish motivations (James 4:4). *Application* God is jealous for us. He yearns for the spirit that He has made to dwell (live) in us (James 4:5). This is the spirit that is in conformity with His direction, His ways, His will (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2). This is where humble transformation is, which gives the eternal joy of knowing God intimately and in unity.

-Becoming a child of God is a humbling process, but the Lord gives grace to the contrite (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 66:2). On the other hand, He is opposed to the proud (James 4:6). Because we recognize that God is Sovereign, submission is required towards Him. If we resist the worldly pull of the devil, he will flee from us. If we draw near to God, He will certainly draw near to us. That is His desire! Therefore, cleanse your hands from sin and purify your hearts from double-mindedness (spiritual adultery). Be wretched (be miserable, endure hardship) and mourn (be sad, grieve) and weep (cry out loud) for the awful-natural condition from which you need to turn. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt (lift up, raise high) you (James 4:7-10). *Application* God cannot deal with proud people that think they have it all together and need no help. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).” On the other side of that, Christ gives the repentant and those with Godly sorrow forgiveness and restoration. Our dependency on Him raises us to new levels of confidence, not in ourselves, but IN Him, our Savior!

-Speaking evil against brothers is dealt with now in the passage, again in the context of destroying pride and being humble. The issue is on prideful judgment here, which James, through the Holy Spirit, denounces as ludicrous. God is our only righteous Judge and Lawgiver. Who are we to judge our neighbor (James 4:11-12)? *Application* Refrain from arbitrary judgments in the spirit of pride. This is not of God and will incur His wrath. As Jesus said, “take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye (Matthew 7:5).” God is the only One in authority to save or condemn. Who are we to think we could have that kind of power?

-Pride over what we will do in the future is now considered, again in the overall context of the book with regards to not just being hearers of the Word, but doers. Life is fleeting, and the only thing with which we must concern ourselves is the will of God. We do not know what tomorrow will bring; therefore, it is useless to make bold and extravagant plans in our own wisdom. It is only “as the Lord wills” that we will live and do this or that. Do not boast in arrogance about what you are going to do because all such boasting is evil the Bible says. If you know what to do and fail to do it, you have sinned and have come far short of the glory of God (James 4:13-17). *Application* The best laid plans of mice and men will falter if the Lord is not in it. This should keep us humbly submitted to His authority with proper respect, honor, awe, and fear. When we get to that place, we will recognize His glory and the unsurpassing love He has for us in His grace and mercy. We will never find God if we don’t ever need Him. Recognize how really weak you are in yourself and cry out for the ultimate power source in Christ Jesus for your future in Him!

Verses to memorize: James 4:1, 3, 6-8, 10, 14-15, 17

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bible Study Notes in James- Chapter 3

Chapter 3

-The works of teaching, the taming of the tongue, and the attitude of the heart are the main emphasis in chapter three as James continues to give advice on the working out aspects of our faith in practice. Not many should become teachers because they will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1). In the same respect, to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). Therefore, if you are called to teach and lead others, do so, but do it with fear and reference as unto the Lord, not out of selfish ambition. *Application* Having an administration in the house of God is a vital calling and one that should not be taken lightly as we see here in this short, but powerful verse. The judgment of God is on those who lead people’s souls if they do not do it well. This should humble us and make us astutely aware of the consequences of not managing the people of God in a manner worthy of our calling. However, as the Scripture says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1).”

-The tongue is a small member in proportion to our entire body, but it directs the course of our life in many respects as words coming pouring out of it directly from the intentions of the heart (Luke 6:45). We can speak life or death in any given situation. Our words should display good fruit because so much damage can come from an uncontrolled mouth. The only One who can tame it is Christ Jesus working through His Holy Spirit to produce in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness in blessing rather than restless evil and deadly poison in curses (James 3:2-12). *Application* Think about what you say. Obey the Holy Spirit and guard your tongue. Instead of reacting to things that frustrate, anger, and agitate you, respond with the love of the Lord and be guided by His mind in you (1 Corinthians 2:16). Lord forgive us when we speak death rather than life. It happens way too often if we care to admit it.

-The wise and understanding will conduct himself in meekness rather than jealousy and selfish-ambition from the heart in boasting and falseness to the truth (James 3:13-14). Jealousy and selfish-ambition is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic wisdom, which leads to disorder and every evil practice (James 3:15-16). On the other hand, the wisdom that comes from above (God) is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. It produces a harvest of righteousness, which is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17-18). *Application* Jesus said that the peacemakers will be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Making peace in a fallen world is hard work and cannot be done without the work of the Holy Spirit within us as we yield to Him. There is a certain humility in this that is supernatural. It comes only from above and we must not stand in His way. Go with the Spirit’s promptings and make peace in Godly wisdom. Resist the natural temptation to be envious, jealous, and selfish in your life.

Verses to memorize: James 3:1, 5, 16-17

Monday, January 25, 2016

Bible Study Notes in James- Chapter 2

Chapter 2

-There are two main thoughts that reverberate through this second chapter of James, and they are actually intricately related. First, the issue of partiality is addressed. The members of Christ’s body, the church, is not to play favorites and appease those with money, fine clothes, and jewelry. The poor have been chosen by God to be rich in faith and heirs to the Kingdom, while the rich oppress, drag believers into court, and blaspheme the honorable name by which the brethren are called (James 2:1-7). The royal law of love towards our neighbor must be kept, and showing partiality negates that imperative command of the Lord. Partiality is a sin, and whoever breaks one part of the Law is guilty of every aspect of it. Mercy is better to show “for judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:8-13).”

*Application* Human nature has not changed at all. We still tend to desire to play favorites that will benefit us to our own advantage. It is straight out sin the Bible says to show favoritism, especially in the area of the rich. Remember, when you lend to the poor, you lend to God (Proverbs 19:17). The greater the need, the more dependency on the Creator and faith is required. Therefore, the Lord is near the brokenhearted and downcast (Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 57:15; 66:2). Judgment, naturally speaking, tends to land in the hands of the wealthy and dominant. Our judgment needs to be out of love, and mercy should always triumph (trump) over judgment. Don’t be a transgressor in the area of partiality. It has dangerous consequences.

-Very much related to this concept of partiality is the idea that faith without works is dead and useless. If we are to actually abide by this impartial law of liberty in love, action is required. We show our faith by our works. James makes the point that both Abraham and Rahab completed their faith by the physical demonstration of obedience to the Lord to give us examples of how that plays out in real life. “As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead (James 2:14-26).” *Application* We can think and say all we want about faith and believing, but until we put it into practice in our lives we are simply fooling ourselves and giving a false sense of security when it comes to the matters of pleasing the Lord. What you actually believe you will do. James’ point is on target when he claims that even the demons believe and shudder, but they do not act righteously, therefore nullifying their goodness naturally and exposing their lies against the truth. Jesus said it like this: “A good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:17-20).” What kind of fruit are you bearing in this life? It would behoove us to consider how we are acting, because this will reveal where we really are in our faith walk. In other words, our works reveal what our true faith is.

Verses to memorize: James 2:5, 10, 13, 17

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bible Study Notes in James- Overview and Chapter 1

Overview of James for New Testament Reading

Unbelievable! Miraculous! Revolutionary!...The best ever! We hear extravagant claims all the time don’t we? Every time we turn on the television, or surf the web these messages leap out at us, assuring us of an improved, new, fantastic, life-changing product that can transform our existence for the better. For mere pennies we can have “cleaner clothes,” “whiter teeth,” “slimmer bodies,” “more glamorous looks,” and “tastier food.” The list goes on and on with things guaranteeing happiness, friends, and the good life. And just before an election, no one can match the politicians’ promises, you can count on that. But, talk is cheap as we all know, and the discerning side of us soon realizes that these ads and boasts were hollow and quite far from the actual truth.

“I’m a believer”…“Jesus is the answer!”…”Believe totally in God!”…”Follow me to church!” Christians often make great claims as well but are just as guilty of contradicting them with their actions. Professing to trust God and to be His people, they cling tightly to the world and its values. Possessing all the right answers, they oppose the gospel with their lives. In other words, they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

James in his short and poetic book, full of energy and vigor, confronts this conflict of natures head-on with the first-century Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities outside of Palestine in the Dispersion (James 1:1), and to all Christians everywhere for all time. James makes it his driving theme that it is not enough to just talk the Christian faith, but one must live it out just as Christ Jesus did. “What use is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him (2:14)?” The proof of the reality of our faith is a changed life. Anything less is a compromise. Therefore, genuine faith will inevitably produce good works, which James explains in practical terms to his audience for the purpose of Christian living.

James was the half-brother of Jesus Christ and a leader in the early church in Jerusalem. He wanted to expose hypocritical practices he observed and to teach correct Christian behavior. He writes in style much like the Proverbs with random sections of wisdom literature that coordinates in a magnificent tapestry of Divine guidance for the believer. This book was written very early in the New Testament cannon, probably around 49 AD prior to the Jerusalem council of 50 AD (Acts 15).

Some theologians have claimed that James contradicts much of what Paul preaches concerning being saved by faith alone. In reality Paul preaches the exact same gospel, faith saves and always leads to works (Eph. 2:8-10). Both Paul and James agree that you can’t have one without the other. There is a blessed union between believing and working out our salvation (Phil. 2:12). Our actions must match our faith for it to be real. It is not really what you say or even think but what you do that reveals what you actually believe. This is the point that James makes.

Major Themes:

Living Faith- James wants believers not only to hear the truth but also to put it into action. He contrasts empty faith (claims without conduct) with faith that works. Commitment to love and to serve others is evidence of true faith. Seek ways of putting your faith to work. Follow through!

Trials- In the Christian life there are trials, tribulations, and temptations. Successfully overcoming these adversities produces maturity and strong character. Don’t resent the troubles when they come upon you. Pray for wisdom; God will supply all you need to face persecution or trouble. He will give you the patience you need and keep you in His overwhelming care.

Compassion- We are to love and serve those around us. As the Father and Jesus Christ is our head, we are the bride of Christ as the church. As this motherly figure, we are to be the loving hands and feet of our Sovereign here on this earth ministering to those children of God who have great needs. We can make the world a better place through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Keeping in love shows that our faith is real and vital. When we show love to others, we are overcoming our own selfishness.

Wise Speech- Wisdom shows itself in wise speech. God holds us responsible for the results of our destructive words. The wisdom of God that helps us control the tongue can help us control all our actions. Accepting God’s wisdom will affect what you say. Your words should convey true humility and lead to peace and edification. Think before you speak and allow God to give you self-control, which a fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Wealth- James taught Christians not to compromise with worldly attitudes about wealth. Because the glory of wealth fades, Christians should store up God’s treasures through sincere giving and service. Christians must not show partiality to the wealthy or be prejudiced against the poor. We are all accountable for what the Lord has entrusted to us. We should never hoard wealth, but be generous towards those in need. In addition, we should not be impressed or flattered by the prideful wealthy as to imitate their arrogance by looking down on the poor.

Impartiality- God is just and plays no favorites. He gives to all and is generous without partiality. We are instructed to be like Him in making no distinctions between people based on what they might be able to do for us or the natural materials they possess.

Selfishness- Where jealousy and selfish ambition is found in our heart there is disorder and every evil thing because it is earthly (worldly), natural, and demonic. This leads to fights, quarrels, and unanswered prayer. We cannot be arrogant and so lie against the truth, Christ is the only way out of a self-centered nature as He makes us new creatures in Him. God is jealous for us and wants us to submit ourselves before Him exclusively so that His grace can be extended and His will be done.

Patience- Just like the prophets and the farmer, we are to wait on the Lord and the power of His might. He will bring about His purposes in due season as we endure during time of suffering just like Job.

Prayer- Prayer is active and takes total involvement without doubting. It is the prayer of faith that gets results in the spiritual realm, which affects the natural.


James begins his letter by outlining some general characteristics of the Christian life (1:1-27). Next, he exhorts Christians to act justly in society (2:1-13). He follows this practical advice with a theological discourse on the relationship between faith and action (2:14-26). The James shows the importance of controlling one’s speech (3:1-12). In 3:13-18, he distinguishes two kinds of wisdom—earthly and heavenly. Then he encourages his readers to turn from evil desires and obey God (4:1-12). James reproves those who trust in their own plans and possessions (4:13-5:6). Finally, he exhorts his readers to be patient with each other (5:7-11), to be straightforward in their promises (5:12), to pray for each other (5:13-18), and to help each other remain faithful to God (5:19-20).

This work should be considered a how-to book on Christian living. As you read be ready to be confronted, challenged, and called to commitment as you become “a doer of the Word (1:22-25).”

Key Verses:

James 1:22-25  22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror  24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:17-18  17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

*Notes from this overview were aided by:

New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1995, pgs. 2184-2185.

Chapter 1

-James writes to those of the Dispersion, spread abroad by persecution (James 1:1). This I take to be the new Israel, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has just experienced a dispersing from Jerusalem and the predominantly Jewish areas because of their belief in the resurrected Savior. Much like when the Assyrians and Babylonians came in and spread out the Hebrew people, now the Christians were being spread out and needed a common identity in Christ. James addresses this as his letter begins.

-This Dispersion has created many tests and trials for the believers, and James wastes no time in encouraging them. He tells them to “count it all joy” when you meet various trials in this life because the testing of faith produces steadfastness and perfects the individual making him/her complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). When we need wisdom, we can ask of God who gives generously to all with reproach, but it must be done in faith. The one who doubts is like a ship on the driven sea and is unstable in all his/her ways (James 1:5-8). *Application* Trust in the Lord when things are rough. Ask and seek His wisdom and direction in all matters. He will guide and grow you if you have faith and do not doubt. This is His promise to you.

-The lowly are encouraged, again in the context of persecution and abandonment, to exalt in their position compared to the fleetly glory of the rich who is wicked in his/her vain pursuits (James 1:9-11). What James is talking about is a trial, and blessed is the man who stays unshakeable in this circumstance for they will receive the crown of life promised to those who love Christ Jesus (James 1:12). God doesn’t do the tempting. It is Satan who lures and entices, and it is people in their natural-fallen desires, who give birth to sin in their hearts, which when it is fully grown produces death (James 1:13-15). *Application* The Lord is on our side and wants to rescue us even in our greatest distress. It is easy to blame God for all our trials and errors, but He is the only One to deliver and save. Don’t get carried away by temptation and fall. Trust in the Lord to heal you and give you new life in Him.

-Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). We are not to be deceived by the enemy (James 1:16). There is no variation or shifting shadow with God. He is the Word of truth that we should be the first fruits of His creatures by faith (Romans 8:23, Ephesians 2:7-10, James 1:17-18). Therefore, we are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. We are to receive the implanted Word, which is able to save souls, and put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness (James 1:20-21).

-James now gets to the crux of his message. We are to be doers of the Word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves (James 1:22). If anyone is just a hearer, he/she is like a person who looks in a mirror and then forgets what they saw. The one who looks at the perfect law of liberty, which is in Christ Jesus, and perseveres, as a doer who acts, is the one who will be blessed in his/her doing (James 1:23-25). The tongue is an important theme which now surfaces and the person who cannot bridle it deceives his heart making his religion worthless. The doing includes pure and undefiled religion before God (not above Him) by visiting the widows and orphans in their affliction and keeping oneself unstained by the word (James 1:26-27). *Application* It is not what you say or think that matters, but what you do that actually reveals what you believe. Don’t fool yourself. This is a tactic of the enemy to deceive. Evaluate what you actually do and you will then more accurately know what you believe.

Verses to memorize: James 1:2-5, 22-25

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Mark- Chapter 16

Mark 16

-The ladies that had tended to the Lord in His life now came back on the first day of the week, Sunday, to anoint the dead Man with spices for his proper burial. The Word says they went very early on this day as the sun had just risen. They were wondering who might be able to roll the stone away for them since it was described as being “extremely large” and therefore too heavy for them to move. But entering the tomb area where they had seen Jesus be buried two days before, they looked up and saw that the stone had been rolled away. They then actually entered the tomb and saw a young man sitting at the right wearing a white robe. This certainly amazed them as it would anyone. The young man said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” The ladies went forth from the tomb trembling and with total astonishment gripping their soul in fear and probably a new found-unexpected hope. They went back to the disciples as the angel had instructed. Mary Magdalene, who had had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus, reported to those who had been with the Christ while they were still mourning and weeping. They did not at first believe the incredible news that this woman was revealing to them. They refused to accept that this Man that they knew had been killed by crucifixion was now alive and had been seen by Mary Magdalene (her testimony of seeing the Christ is actually expanded upon in another gospel, John 20:11-18). The Emmaus travelers are also reported by Mark in two short verses here with an expanded version in Luke 24:13-36. These were not believed either, but afterward the Lord appeared to the eleven themselves as they reclining at the table. He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. They still had some lessons to learn in faith at this point (Mark 16:1-14).

-Jesus now gives them their marching orders as the risen Savior of the world. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My Name they will cast out demons (Acts 19:11-20), they will speak with new tongues (Acts 2:1-4); they will pick up serpents (Acts 28:3-9), and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16:15-18, Acts 3:1-9).”

-The final scene is portrayed on the Mount of Olives as Jesus is received to the Right Hand of the Father in Heaven (Mark 16:19, Acts 1:9-12). From there they went out and preached everywhere just as the Lord commanded them. He was with them in every respect as a guiding influence by His Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). He confirmed the Word by the signs that followed His disciples as the Kingdom of God advanced and multiplied “from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation (Mark 16:19-20).” The church was born.

-*Application* With total victory achieved we now have the power and authority of the Almighty in us as believers to change this dark and desperate world. Do we believe? Do we move in His Spirit? He has given us all we need to keep advancing His given mission during the course of our lives. Serve Him faithfully and enjoy the exciting life in Christ Jesus!

Verse to Memorize: Mark 16:15-16

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Mark- Chapter 15

Mark 15

-A consultation was held early on that fateful Friday morning as the chief priests, elders, and scribes all consorted together. They bound Jesus and led Him away to deliver Him over the Roman authority, Pilate, with the hopes of capital punishment for this Man believed to be a blasphemous imposter. Pilate questioned the Messiah asking Him if indeed He was the King of the Jews. Jesus replied that it was as he said. The chief priests began to again accuse Him harshly. Christ did not respond to their accusations, which led Pilate to wonder why He made no defense for Himself. This amazed the Roman leader (Mark 15:1-5). At the feast, the Romans had a tradition of allowing one prisoner to be released. There was an insurrectionist named Barabbas, who had committed murder, that came up for release along with Jesus. Pilate was aware, the Bible says here, that the Jewish leadership had handed Jesus over because of their envy more than anything else. So, he made attempts to peacefully release the Lord, but the chief priests were successful in stirring up the crowd gathered for this event to release Barabbas rather than Jesus. Pilate asked plainly what he should do with Jesus then, who was referred to as the “King of the Jews.” They shouted, “Crucify Him!” The biblical commentary paints a very sad tale for Pilate as he released Barabbas instead of Jesus wishing to satisfy the stirred up crowd. An injustice was served. Jesus was whipped and then handed over to be crucified by asphyxiation on a cross (Mark 15:6-15).

-The Roman soldiers quickly took him into the Praetorium, which was a part of the Antonia Fortress on the northeast side of the Temple Mount area. The whole Roman cohort (battalion) was called together for this occasion as they dressed the Lord in purple and placed a crown woven out of razor sharp thorns on him in mockery. They jeered, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They beat His earthly Head with a reed (or staff) of wood. They were spitting on Him in derision, and kept kneeling down in sardonic worship of Him to humiliate the Messiah. When this was finished, they undressed His purple robe and put His own garments back on. Then they led Him out to crucify the Lamb of God (Mark 15:16-20).

-Along the route to the crucifixion site, they pressed into service a passer-by from the country. Mark names this man as Simon of Cyrene and the father of Alexander and Rufus. This implies that this family ended up becoming Christians due to the fact that much was known about them in the early church. Simon of Cyrene bore the cross of Jesus, more than likely since the Lord was at this point too physically weak to carry it on His own. He was finally brought to the place, Golgotha, or place of the Skull, outside the city walls of Jerusalem. He was offered wine mixed with myrrh as an antiseptic, but He refused to take it. “And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take (Psalm 22:18, Mark 15:21-24).”

-Jesus historically was put on the cross at 9:00am local time. The charge against Him by the Roman government who was in dominion over Judea at that time read, “The King of the Jews.” They crucified at the same time, two other thieves to either side of the Lord. Thus the Scripture was further fulfilled that He, the Messiah, would be “numbered with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).” Those going back and forth into and out of the city along what was probably a busy thoroughfare were hurling abuse at Him in mockery and disgust. They had hoped for a political savior, but it seemed their hopes had been dashed by what they considered to be yet another imposter and deceiver. They tempted Him, “save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” In other words, “prove You are who You say You are by doing things our way, not God’s!” Thankfully, our Lord knew better and endured the insults casted so venomously at Him during His passion. Even the religious leaders were getting into the act as insensitive-abusive manipulators. Lastly, the two thieves condemned to die with Him were also insulting the King of Glory, but in another gospel at least one came around to salvation after truly observing the scene (Mark 15:25-32, Luke 23:39-43).

-By noon, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour (3:00pm). In this afternoon hour, Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Bystanders misheard Him in this plea. They falsely thought He was calling for Elijah the prophet. After another sponge with sour wine was offered to the Lord for a drink, He uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last breath on earth as the Suffering Servant. The veil of the Temple was immediately torn in two from top to bottom ushering in a new era of God’s mercy and grace upon the earth for all mankind. The centurion who had witnessed all the miraculous and incredible events of the crucifixion right in front of the Lord admitted, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome were listed as some of the prominent women looking of from a distance as these events unfolded at Calvary. These used to follow Him in Galilee and ministered to Him. They, along with others, had come up with Him to Jerusalem as witnesses of the greatest event in human history (Mark 15:33-41).

-Now when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day before the Sabbath, immediate action had to be taken to bury the Savior. Joseph of Arimathea (a tribal town of Benjamin in Judea about three miles northeast of Jerusalem), who was indicated as a “prominent member of the Council” and one who was “waiting for the Kingdom of God” gathered incredible courage to go before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus after His death. Pilate indeed wondered how the Christ could have been killed so quickly, so he beckoned for the centurion and questioned him on the matter. Ascertaining the facts of the Lord’s death, Pilate granted Joseph of Arimathea His deceased body. Joseph bought a linen cloth, the Bible says, and took Him down from the cross. He then wrapped the body of the Lord in the linen cloth and laid Him in a nearby tomb which had been hewn out in the rock. Joseph then saw to it that a stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb for protection. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see the exact spot where the Lord was laid. They would come back after the Sabbath day of rest to anoint Him in His proper burial (Mark 15:42-16:1).

-*Application* The death of One on behalf of the many, still draws us to excitement and passion today. Jesus changes lives. His sacrifice on the cross mattered. It is altogether the worst and the best thing that has ever happened in the history of the world all at the same time. A paradox, it is the perfect demonstration of courage and love for a hopeless case. When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the Just for the unjust (Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18).

Verse to Memorize: Mark 15:37

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Mark- Chapter 14

Mark 14

-The time comes within two days of the Passover and feast of Unleavened Bread where the chief priests and scribes were seeking how to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. They wanted to be inconspicuous as much as possible so as not to cause a riot among the people since they feared them knowing that Jesus was a powerful teacher with substantial influence. What they neglected to figure out was that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Christ was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper. While He was reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume (about a year’s worth of wages). It was pure nard, and she broke the vial of it and poured it over the Lord’s Head. This was a symbolic anointing for His burial, but she may not have even known the real significance of this act. Surely the disciples didn’t. They became indignant with what they considered a wasteful spending of money on this occasion. Jesus rebuked them though. He told they would always have the poor to give to whenever they felt led, but He was only here for this brief time. What the woman was doing was commended by the Messiah, and He prophesied that wherever His gospel was preached, she would be known in memory (Mark 14:1-9).

-The scene quickly jumps in the text to Judas Iscariot and his primary steps in the betrayal of Christ Jesus. He went off to the chief priests to plot and plan. Of course the religious establishment was glad when they heard of this treachery. They promised to give him money for his efforts, and they began to seek an opportune time to get Him (Mark 14:10-11).

-On the first day of Unleavened Bread under the Law of the Jesus at its appointed time, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, the Lord’s disciples asked where He wanted them to prepare to eat the traditional meal of Passover. He sent two of the disciples into Jerusalem and told them ahead of time that they would meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. They were to follow him and enter the house to ask the owner for his guest room for the feast with His disciples. The owner would show them a large upper (upstairs) room, which would be furnished and ready. Jesus told them to prepare for the meal there in that appointed place. Many think this was the same place where the Holy Spirit entered the scene post Christ’s return to the Right Hand of God the Father, but this cannot be proven textually. The disciples went and came to the city to find it just as the Lord had said, and they prepared the Passover dinner there (Mark 14:12-16). When it was evening, He came with the twelve. As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus began to speak, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” The disciples began to be very grieved saying one-by-one, “Surely not I?” He then dipped in the bowl with Judas Iscariot, and once again prophesied as the fulfillment of ancient prophesy. He pronounced woe and ruin on the betrayer knowing his fate and heart fully. His comment that it would have been better had he never been born is a powerful condemnation as to the consequences of this heinous act of intrigue. While still eating, Jesus now took some bread and initiated the first communion. He blessed the bread, then broke it as a symbol of His death and gave it to them saying, “Take it; this is My Body.” After this, the Lord took a cup of wine, gave His Father in Heaven thanks for it, apportioned it to the disciples having them all drink from the same cup. Then He commented, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” After they all sang a hymn to the LORD, they went out to the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley to the east and outside the gates of the Holy City (Mark 14:17-26). Here, Jesus again predicts Peter’s future denial of Him. He begins the passion like this from the Old Testament prophecy, “I will strike down the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered (Zechariah 13:7, Mark 14:27).” But then He gives them hope. “After I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Peter pledged his allegiance to his Master at this point, but Jesus plainly stated, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” Peter was insistent on his promise guaranteeing to go to his death without denying the Lord. All the disciples were joining in with this fervor, not exactly knowing what was about to go down (Mark 14:28-31).

-*Application* We can also sometimes object to a clearly stated word from the LORD on matters in our lives. This is dangerous and always fallible. It proves to be arrogance against the Almighty who knows all and sees ahead in situations. Instead of false bravado and unscrupulous pride, we would be better served to humbly submit to the King’s word. He always knows better than us as fate would have it. We will continue to see the dynamic of betrayal play out as a theme in Peter and Judas Iscariot with very diverse results. Repentance and return to the LORD we will see is crucial when we have fallen, and God’s grace is always sufficient when we have the proper heart.

-They came to the place named Gethsemane on the lower western part of the Mount of Olives. He wanted His disciples to sit while He prayed. He took Peter, James, and John a little further along, and the Word says He began to be very distressed and troubled in His Spirit. In fact, His Soul was grieved with heartache to the point of death. Another gospel tells us that He was in such anguish that He sweated drops like blood from His pores (Luke 22:44). This was indeed a desperate plea before the Father as He asked to have this cup of suffering removed from Him. Nevertheless, He wanted God’s will above His own wishes facing this torment and torture for the sake of redeeming the world. He returned to find His disciples sleeping. He implored them to wake up, keep watch, and pray, but they were extremely weary. He knew that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. He exhorted them to watch and pray that they may not enter into temptation. He went back to pray again in His distressed and oppressed Spirit, but the disciples again grew tired and slept. When He came back a third time to find them sound asleep, He commented, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand (Mark 14:32-42)!”

-While He was still speaking these words, immediately Judas, one of the twelve, came up to Him accompanied by a cohort from the chief priests and scribes and elders of the people. They had clubs and swords looking ready for a fight. Judas kissed the Lord as the prearranged plot to identify Him in the dark of night calling Him, “Rabbi!” They tried to seize Him, but a fracas briefly broke out with Peter cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave (John 18:10). This resulted in a healing from another gospel account, which appears to be the Lord’s last earthly miracle before His crucifixion (Luke 22:51). Jesus quickly calmed things down in this chaos though. He proclaimed, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you in the Temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” After this statement of concession, the disciples vacated the scene quickly. They ALL left Him and fled. One dubious young man, who some scholars believe was John Mark himself, had only a linen sheet over his naked body. This sheet was grabbed by the captors, but he ripped away and escaped naked (Mark 14:43-52).

-Jesus was then led away to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. All the chief priests, elders, and scribes who had illegally conspired together, with forethought and preparation, gathered together to examine this Messiah. Peter regained his moxy for a moment and followed the procession at a distance right into the courtyard of the high priest’s house. He was sitting with the officers there warming himself by the fire. Inside, a council of the Sanhedrin developed in the house, but the testimonies were inconsistent, and they were not finding any convincing proof that would condemn Him to death. His statement about rebuilding the Temple without hands even fell apart in this farce of a courtroom. Finally, the high priest himself stood up and came forward toward the Lord to question Him. He didn’t understand why Jesus was silent in the face of His accusers. When He wouldn’t speak even to the high priest, Caiaphas cut to the quick, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” This was the moment of truth, and Jesus responded, “I AM (emphasis mine); and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the Right Hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven (Psalm 110:1-7, Daniel 7:13-14).” Now fully knowing the claim by this Man, the chief priest tore his clothes in disgust saying, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” The council ALL condemned Him as deserving of death at that pivotal point. Some began to spit at Him. They blindfolded Him and beat the Messiah with their fists mocking Him to “Prophesy!” As the officers received Him, they too slapped the Lord in the Face (Mark 14:53-65).

-Peter was still below in the courtyard below observing the scene as much as he could. A servant-girl of the high priest came and looked out the disciple and commented, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.” Peter, as Jesus had prophesied, denied it saying he neither knew Him nor understood what she was talking about. Fear had gripped his heart as he walked out onto the porch and heard a rooster crow. She came back later and seeing him said to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” Peter again denied it. Sometime later these bystanders were purporting, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” At this point, the man who claimed he would stand up for Jesus no matter what began to curse and swear to the fact that He did not know Jesus and had no idea what they were talking about in trying to identify him with this condemned Man. Immediately a rooster crowed for the second time and triggered Peter’s memory of the Lord’s words. The Bible says that at that point he went outside and began to weep bitterly (Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:62).

-*Application* We know that Jesus was one with the Father and completely obeyed His good and perfect will on earth. This certainly was not easy as we can discern from the text. It will not be easy for us too to take up our cross every day and follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, 1 Corinthians 15:31). But the reward is great and God has substantial mercy. Just remember Peter’s failures and eventually restoration to give strength to persevere when God calls us to do difficult things for His Kingdom’s success.

Verses to Memorize: Mark 14:22-25, 36

Monday, January 4, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Mark- Chapter 13

Mark 13

-As Jesus continues His passion week, one of His disciples notices the wonderful edifices of stones and buildings in the Temple area and remarks this to the Lord. The Christ prophecies, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down (Mark 13:1-2).” This occurred in about 70 A.D. when the Romans came in with destruction of the Temple and tore down the place stone by stone to possibly scrape up some of the Temple’s gold. Ruins of this Temple in ancient sections of the Holy City can still be seen today as a testimony of the accuracy of Jesus’ Words. This is a picture I took several years ago of these ruins of the Herodian Temple:

-Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, just to the east of the Holy City opposite the Temple with a beautiful view of it, Peter, James, John, and Andrew of the twelve questioned Him privately of these things wanting some signs for the end of times. Jesus gave some of the most insightful and deliberate teaching here in this context of His second coming. His first point was to avoid deception, “See to it that no one misleads you.” Many, He said, would in His Name falsely claiming to be the messiah, and many would be led astray by these counterfeits. He informed them of future wars and rumors of wars that would occur as the beginning birth pangs of His coming. He added to this earthquakes in various places around the world along with famines and food shortages. He told His audience not to be afraid, or frightened, when these early stages happen. Then He let them know that believers would certainly be persecuted before His return. They would be delivered over to courts, flogged with whips in the synagogues, and set before kings of the earth for the King’s sake as a testimony to them. The gospel would be advanced and proclaimed to all the nations. God, by His Holy Spirit, would give His followers the words to say in that given hour. In that time, brother would betray brother, a father his child, and children will rise up against their parents and have them killed. The disciples of Jesus would be hated by all because they adore the Name of Christ Jesus, “but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” The Anti-Christ, called here the “Abomination of Desolation,” will stand in the Temple where he should not be, and then the Jewish people and all believers in Judea would need to vacate to the mountains immediately without packing up at all. The Lord pronounces woe on those who may be pregnant or have nursing babies in those days. He also warns that people should pray that this doesn’t happen in winter, when the weather is more harsh and cold. Those days will be a time of trial and tribulation without parallel in world history. “Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.” Jesus also warned them not to believe those who say that the Christ has appeared here or there “for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” Jesus then gives a pertinent word to prepare, “But take heed; behold, I have told you EVERYTHING (emphasis mine) in advance (Mark 13:3-23).”

-Now He goes into His return. After the tribulation, “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” The Christ will send forth His angels to gather His elect from all over the earth. Jesus says to pay attention again to the fig tree parable. “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you (disciples) too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation (race, age) will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away (Mark 13:24-31).” Christ, in His human element, did not know the day or hour that these things would transpire. No one would know, not even the angels in Heaven. So, He simply said for His disciples to “take heed” and “keep on the alert.” The end will be like a man on a journey who is away putting all of His servants in charge of His house, each one with a charged task. Alertness is reiterated over and over again (Mark 13:32-37).

-*Application* Taking heed to the things that Christ reveals and being alert to them will keep us awake and ready for His return. Summer is here, are we ready to receive the King in all His power and glory today? Don’t get weary as we work and wait (Galatians 6:9). Don’t be deceived by false teachings or mockers (2 Peter 3:3-9). Jesus will come in His appointed time and in the prophesied way. The victory is assured!

Verses to Memorize: Mark 13:10, 23

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Mark- Chapter 12

Mark 12

-The parables continue as Jesus addresses the Jerusalem crowd right before His crucifixion. The parable of the vineyard and the annihilated son projects the LORD’s view of the unresponsive religious and political elite to His ordained prophets and messengers including the Incarnate Son. It is interesting that the religious leaders understood that He spoke the parable against them. They wanted to seize Him, but they feared the people. “The Stone which the builders rejected, this became the Chief Cornerstone; this came about from the LORD and it is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118:22-23, Mark 12:1-12).”

-The religious leaders then sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus in another attempt to trap Him in His words. This is the great episode where they inquire about the Roman poll-tax that so infuriated the Jewish populace. They wanted to either turn the people against Him if He said yes to the question, or bring an accusation of treason and rebellion against Rome if He said no. Jesus, “knowing their hypocrisy,” had them bring a denarius (a day’s wage) and asked whose inscription was on it. When they rightly replied “Caesar’s,” He uttered these famous words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The crowd was amazed at His wisdom in the answer. His intellect and quick wit was impeccable. He was the perfect Lamb of God (Mark 12:13-17). Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, then quizzed Him about the marriage of seven brothers to one woman under the Law and how that would apply in the afterlife. Jesus took advantage of this opportunity to teach on the other realm and how to properly interpret Scripture. First, He let them know that there is neither marrying or giving in marriage in Heaven, but individuals would be “like angels.” Secondly, He pointed to the tense of the text in the Old Testament writings of Moses to prove that God is the God of the living, not the dead. The Sadducees were greatly mistaken in their theology, and Jesus rightly corrects their fallacy. This proves that Jesus is a verbal-plenary advocate in interpreting the Word of God (Mark 12:18-27). One of the scribes who had come up upon the discussion recognized that He had answered the Sadducees well. This inquisitive individual asked what the greatest command in the Law was. Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is One LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’” When the scribe agreed with Him and made the comment that these essentials were “much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” Jesus recognized his intelligence and said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” After this, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions (Mark 12:28-34).

-Jesus was then teaching in the Temple posing the question, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit at My Right Hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your Feet.’ David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; so in what sense is He his son?” The crowd loved these deep questions and hung on every word He was speaking (Mark 12:35-37). He was explaining the concept of Messiah plainly written about in the Old Covenant for any who wanted to know the truth.

-He continued with a scathing rebuke of the hypocrisy of the religious elite who like the look of holiness only for their own personal benefit. He called them out for their lust for power and respect in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, while really they were devouring widows’ houses. The Lord told his audience to “beware” of them (Mark 12:38-40). Now He made a point on real sacrificial giving when He observed the scene at the Temple treasury. The rich were putting in their large sums, but this didn’t impress the Christ. Calling His disciples to Him, He explained after seeing a poor widow put two copper coins amounting to about a cent, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44).” Again, God was focused on the heart of holiness, not the appearance of it.

-*Application* How genuine is our faith? Jesus has a way of exposing the real truth doesn’t He?

Verses to Memorize: Mark 12:32-34