Wednesday, July 3, 2013

42 Steps Ahead: Day 3

Day 3: Mark 1 (First Steps of Ministry)

The gospel writer, Mark, chose to start his record of Jesus’ life by starting with the beginning of His ministry. John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus by telling everyone to be open for a change of life.
We then see Jesus in an act of submission and humility as He is being baptized by John. Baptism is a sign to the world that we are surrendered in our hearts to God.
Jesus forms a team of men (called disciples) with whom He chose to work and live closely. He then gets right to work in reaching the community around Him. In the midst of His work, we see Jesus taking time to pray to His Father. We learn as much from Jesus in His actions as we do His words.
Here’s the importance of the first chapter of Mark. We see what are the key ingredients to Jesus’ ministry: submission and humility, working in a team, reaching a broken world, and taking time out to connect spiritually to the Father. These form the foundation for our own spiritual walk with God.


                John the Baptist baptizes people, then Jesus. Jesus starts out and heals all the people.

My Thoughts

                Upon reading Steve’s take on this, I was really looking for the four things he mentioned as parts of Jesus’ ministry; submission and humility, working in a team, reaching a broken world, and taking time out to connect to God. Now, I may be wrong here, but it seems like teamwork is not in the cards. The disciples are just being led around and they don’t seem to be doing much as far as contributing. I suppose that’s what happens when you have literally the biggest name on your team.
                I like how it references OT scripture when talking about John the Baptist. It shows that the OT and the NT are linked and part of a larger story. This man has an odd way of dressing and eating however. Though I’m curious the point of baptism before Jesus finished His works. Baptism now is a public display of obedience, that you will follow Jesus; I’ve heard it summated to putting on the ‘I Love Jesus’ T-shirt. What was it then? Did John say, “Based upon Your profession of faith in Yourself, I now baptize You in Your name. Buried like You in the likeness of death, raised like You in the likeness of your resurrection”?
                The line about the dove descending reminds me of the Day of Pentecost in Acts. I suppose this is why doves also symbolize peace so much. Or, should they symbolize peace? This is more Godliness it seems. Or maybe worthiness? I’m rambling, moving on!
                Why did they just give a cursory nod to 40 days and nights being tempted by Satan? That’s such a good story.
                I’m starting to see why all four gospels are required to get a full picture. Mark skips a lot in accumulating of disciples.
                Apparently demons were very commonplace back then. The amount of demons would be the same now, I would surmise; though human population has since skyrocketed. I wonder if it’s still a huge issue? I like how the one demon starts talking to Jesus, saying that he knows who He is. I suppose that would be a good time to reference how ‘Even demons know who God is’.
                It references Simon’s mother-in-law, who is sick. Isn’t Simon renamed to Peter later; the apostle Peter? Was Peter married? I suppose I had always had the mental image of 12 unencumbered men abandoning dead-end jobs and going to follow Jesus. Really though, Peter was married and left his wife and followed Jesus. That’s commitment, and it’s humbling when you think about it.
                After a huge night of healing and likely creating so much buzz, the apostles come up to Jesus and say, “Hey, let’s go back there.” Jesus opts to go to a different location instead of spring boarding off of the news saying, “This is what I came for.” Just an interesting development in my opinion.
                Mark 1 definitely gives a lot of ingredients of Jesus’s ministry (and His character). How many can you find? 

Monday, April 1, 2013


                As I haven’t really posted an article in quite a while, there isn’t a large consistency on my life story through this online medium. My blog has been less my growth through God, and more my ability to sometimes be not as lethargic in writing. Suffice it to say my supposed daily posts on Steve McCoy’s “42 Steps Ahead” have been anything but daily. Due to this gap in knowledge, I will give a little backstory on what has been happening in the life of Robert since last year. Well, the singular biggest event that has since defined my life.

                My fiancĂ©, Chelsea, broke up with me on February 23rd, 2013 at roughly 11:30pm. That’s oddly specific, because I vividly remember the current time when she verbalized “I don’t want to be with you anymore.” It was an emotional outburst due to having argued for the past hour and a half, or so I figured at the time. I had thought of exclaiming the same thing when angry, but just never had done it; and she had done this before. I tried to play damage control that night before she went to bed.

                The next day I was surprised that her resolve was still firm, as it had never been prior. My world fell around me, she was my purpose. I felt warm the entire day, everything seemed pointless and insubstantial. I tried to reason to her to come back to me for the following few days to no avail. She never really gave me any reasons to work with, nor did she indicate one way or another why she did it (aside from her outburst the night of). She kept giving mixed messages that I wasn’t sure how to handle, and I prayed to God that she’d come to her senses and come back to me.

                I realized I needed to actually hear God, instead of just yelling at Him for letting this happen, so I did what I hadn’t done for weeks prior: opened the Bible. I read through Acts in about 4 days, and then landed in Matthew for a little bit. When I went over Matthew 4:1-11, something struck me. In the Bible, when there was an issue, or a large decision to be made, or some new chapter of life began, people fasted and meditated on God.

                I told few people about it so as to fast in secret, but I also wanted to ask how best to go about it, so I let a couple people in on it. Namely, Rodney and Clay, who both decided they would fast with me to show support and fellowship, of which I still extremely grateful. I appointed a time to do it over the weekend, so there would be light interruption.

                Any time I heard from Chelsea (we were and are still on speaking terms) I couldn’t think properly, so I told her we would have a period of no communication. We agreed to talk again a week after that Sunday and discuss our future.

                My purpose going into the fast was two-fold, to ask God how to get Chelsea back, and to get closer to God and increase my knowledge. Of course, as many more mature Christians will point out right-away, my motives were half wrong. I was trying to get God to do what I wanted Him to do, and He had none of it. It became clear to me over conversations, quiet times, Romans, and James that I was to not be with her. We had lost most of our vivacity for God.

Steve, my pastor, had done a wonderful sermon where he made a good analogy. He is full of good analogies, but to save you time on listening to the whole thing (though you should because it’s wonderful) I’m specifically referring to his football stadium analogy, found at about 2:33 in the recording. He compares a football stadium and field to the different stages of a Christian walk. Outside of the field is being lost and not knowing Christ, the seats are analogized to being a follower. However, as you mature, you start to move towards the field. The time invested in the ‘game’ increases more and more as your position moves forward, as it does in a real game. You have to be intentional with God to move to the field, and if you’re not moving towards the field you are not producing ‘fruits’. Please listen to his analogy, I’m horrible at abridgment. The point being, I was being moved towards the field and Chelsea was content with seat 21-B.

Of course, she broke up with me, so there was obviously something on my end that I had done. Of course there were multiple things that I had done wrong; I credit my addiction to pornography as one of, if not THE largest detriment to our relationship. However, most of our arguments stemmed directly from our dissimilar ‘rows’ in the stadium. This is not to say I’m the bees knees, I am human and flawed just as anyone else. However, she did not seem to me to be moving towards the field.

She refused to ‘serious talk’ with me on the day we specified due to one reason or another, which hit me hard. I was so prepared to give this outstanding speech on how we couldn’t be together now, but if we worked hard we could be later. I was considerably less and less prepared each day. Since the breakup, I had put a complete and utter stop to all pornography (and the activity that comes with it, since it rarely if never happens on its own). But since we didn’t talk, that began to slip. Finally, we talked about a week and a half after we were supposed to. I gave her my coarse stance and let her off to God. She said she felt convicted, and would go pray about it.

“Good,” I thought. “When she gets with God we can be together again.”

I couldn’t fathom it when she told me a few days later that nothing had happened. She wasn’t intentional with God, there was no Bible reading, there wasn’t a revelation that came down upon her like fire from the heavens; nothing had changed. I just couldn’t understand what God was doing! I did what He said to do, but the result that I was expecting didn’t happen! That’s the problem though; I was still expecting God to do what I wanted.

Easter morning it finally clicked. I had been up all night due to my sporadic teenager-like sleep schedule, and at about 5:00am a wave of clarity washed over me. I can’t really explain the full train of thought as I’ve since forgotten a chunk of it due partially to bad memory and partially to sleep deprivation, but it finally worked itself out. Chelsea had always been a blessing to me, from day one. I give merit to two people in my life who worked on me the most in terms of God, and I deem her as one of them. I grew so much from many things she did, and I count it all as her goodness. Had she not decided to cut this cord, I would not have gotten this springboard into my spiritual growth. I would not have read Acts and Romans within one week of another, I would not have fasted, and I would not have grown this fruit of Christ-like character. There’s a song that says “What if the troubles of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

So, what I want to say is this: Bad things happen, but God will work them for good if you let Him. I need to make sure this whole experience is a springboard to grow, as opposed to just a thing that happened. I’m excited what God will do for me in the future, and I’m glad to have the people in my life along for the ride.  A new chapter, a new season of my life is beginning. How awesome is it that it begins on Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection? As long as you ask, He will answer; just make sure you listen to Him!

P.S. I didn’t know how to really end this article, but I want to finish off with a couple things, so I suppose I will post-script this all! Here are two verses I heard/read that blew my mind.

P.P.S. To Chelsea: I am happy you put this into motion, even though it was a sad event. I hope and pray that you will enjoy a fruitful Christian life full of adventure, instead of one with averageness. Every datable girl I can think of is a huge step down from you, you definitely are a keeper. You helped me when I was stricken with fear, and you comforted me when the world was crushing my spirits and your final kindness to me was to launch me towards God in a way that I was not prepared to do. So, I thank you. There’s nothing else I can do for you, there’s no way for me to repay you for being such a huge miracle in my life. Suffice it to say, I miss you like crazy. We still talk now, but I am pretty sure you’ll never read this blog (you never really huge on it). Regardless of what the future holds, you were an amazing fiancĂ© and I came out better for knowing you. I'm so glad to have known you. You led me deeper into God’s love than I would have done on my own, which is something not everyone can do. I pray that you get closer to God and that I will see you on the field in heaven, instead of the seats. And before I go, I’ll say it one last time; I love you, hon. <3

Saturday, January 12, 2013

42 Steps Ahead: Day 2

Day 2: Luke 2 (Jesus As a Child)

Luke 2 gives us the details of the Christmas story. Then we get the only glimpse of Jesus as a child in this chapter. His childhood has always been a mystery since none of the four writers of Jesus’ life (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provide very much information.
What we do see in this chapter is Jesus astounding everyone even from an early age. It wasn’t a dazzling miracle that was so amazing; it was how much He knew about spirituality and the words of God. Even as a young boy, Jesus was revealing His identity as God’s Son.


                Jesus is born, shepherds come by, Simeon and Anna praise God, Jesus gets left behind.

My Thoughts

               Having grown up a Lutheran, I recognize the first bit straightaway. Lutheran Christmas services are identical regardless of church, it seems. There is a pamphlet passed out that has the game plan printed in it. You follow along as they recite scripture, sing specific songs, and finally light candles. When the angel converses with the shepherds it is very nostalgic of my childhood and these Lutheran services.

                In relation to Day 1, I find the Christmas story curious. I know there has to be some consequence to the details it chooses to provide. Why is the manger notable? Why do the shepherds need to be in the story? And why does it keep expressing Mary was treasuring everything that happened? Also, I have not read the Old Testament so I cannot be sure, but are sacrifices not used to forgive sin? Why would they need to sacrifice for Jesus since he was sinless? Why does God include Simeon and Anna in this story? Why does Jesus seem to be rebellious to his parents?

                Really this chapter offers more questions than answers to me. However, maybe it is just a narrative rather than a message; to know Jesus further by what occurred than to give any distinctive direction. Also, it seems God fulfilled the promises he made in this story. What promises has he made for us? Truly, he will keep them.