søndag 25. november 2012

Mark 14:1-26 The Christ!

Mark 14:1-26

Have you ever watched a marathon (running race)? It’s a long race, over a number of hours – but the most exciting part is often the very, very end, when there’s one or two amazing runners using the absolute last bit of their energy, gasping for air, pushing their bodies towards the prize. After hours of running, the race comes down to milliseconds! And that’s where we are in Mark’s Gospel – we’re in the home straight, running for the finish, and the action is hotting up! So Mark goes into slow motion so we can capture all the detail of these last couple of days of Jesus’ life here on earth. From his anointing for burial to his last meal with his disciples, to his sham trials, and his display of Kingly service on the cross as he dies for sinners like us, to his resurrection. This is what it’s all about. This is what Mark wants us to hear, to understand, to believe, and in believing, have life. Remember how he began: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Previously in Mark’s Gospel....

The disciples have been fed with heavenly food (feeding of 5000) and their eyes have been opened (2 stage blind man miracle and blind Bartimeus who sees the King) to who Jesus is. They know that he is the Christ. They were called in chapter 3:13-19 in a way that reminds us of the calling of the twelve tribes of Israel. It seemed, then, that Jesus was founding a new Israel.

That is confirmed now. In chapter 12 we saw that Israel, represented by chief priests, scribes, elders, have rejected Jesus, their Christ (or Messiah) and King. And so Jesus has pronounced the consequences upon them. Last week we saw that not one stone will stand. The old Temple will be cleared away for the new Temple: Jesus, and his church. The church is founded on its cornerstone, Jesus, the Christ.

But why did Israel reject Jesus? What’s the issue? Remember Mark 7? Jesus reveals why people reject him. It’s a heart problem. Mk 7:20–23 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile (make unclean) a person.”

Sin drives the religious leaders to kill God. We all want God to be dead, so that we can take his place. We all want to decide for ourselves. We hear people say after tragedies, a loved one dies, they fall sick, they’re hit by a massive storm which destroys their house, “I can’t believe in a God who allows such things to happen”.
That’s ironic because it’s only because of God that they expect things to be any different! Why would you expect the world to be kind and loving when it absolutely isn’t –unless that’s how God made the world in the first place, reflecting his good character!

What they’re really saying is I can do a better job as God than God. “I wish you were dead God, so I can take over”. It’s the child’s equivalent of putting their hands over their ears so they can’t hear you (the Dad!).

And so v1 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

But what they don’t know is that this is exactly what Jesus came to do. He has been preparing for his death for many years. He is the Christ.

1. Jesus is the Christ (anointed one)

Christ means simply “anointed one” (to anoint something means to pour oil on it to set it apart for special or holy use). Three types of people were anointed in the OT: Kings (2 Sam 2:4), Priests (Ex 28:41), and Prophets (1 Kings 19:16). The anointing symbolised being equipped for service by the Holy Spirit. King, priests and prophets were anointed, set apart to serve God in the power of the Spirit.

Now we’ve already seen Jesus being anointed as King, at his baptism. 1:9-11 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus is anointed not by oil but directly by the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s voice from Heaven declares him to be God the Son, the beloved second person of the Trinity; the Son of God, the name given to Israel – he will do what Israel could not and fulfil the covenant with Abraham to be a blessing to all nations; the Son of God, the name given to Israel’s king, who represented the nation before God, and therefore when anointed king also called the Son of God – and so Jesus too is recognised as the anointed King of God’s people.
Jesus of Nazareth, fully human, identifying with us in baptism, declared to be the King, the new Israel, and the divine Son.

So Jesus is the true King. But not just that, he is also true Priest and true Prophet. The role of the Priest was to offer sacrifices to God, to mediate (make clear the way) between sinful man and holy God. Jesus is preparing himself to be the sacrifice, and open the way for sinful men to meet a holy God. More than that, he will not just be the Priest but the Temple itself! The stone Temple will fall because Jesus is now the true meeting place between man and God.

The Prophet spoke the very words of God “thus says the Lord” – Jesus says “I say to you” (further indicating that he, at least, saw himself as divine, equal to the Father).

3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard (a type of perfume), very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

Now, three day before his death, he is publically anointed before his followers, reminding them that here is the King, our champion, our representative. For just as Jesus was baptised, something only sinners need to do - for baptism is a washing away of sin, dying to sin under the water and rising again to new life out of the water – just as Jesus identified with our sin in his baptism, so now he completes that work of baptism by taking the penalty of our sin upon himself. His body will be broken, his blood shed, to break the power of sin over us, to set us free, to achieve the real Exodus: bringing his people from slavery to sin under the power of Satan to a new freedom in (ultimately) a new earth under his good kingly rule.

Jesus understood this: 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.

His burial will be gospel (good news) proclaimed to the world. Because don’t forget that although he’s anointed for burial, he is no sinner – he is our representative, bearing our sin, dying in our place, but he himself has committed no sin; death has no claim on him. So, as he himself has reminded us three times: he will be handed over, he will be killed, he will rise again (8:31, 9:31, 10:34) .

Christus Victorious! The Risen Christ! Jesus, enthroned upon the seat of Heaven, his great work of redemption complete. That is yet to come. For the path of the Christ, the Promised Rescuer, eternal King, means he must become as nothing, a pitiable slave, a willing sacrifice, a lamb lead to the slaughter. First he must be the Passover Lamb, driven by his deep self-sacrificial love for rebel sinners like you and me.

So Jesus the Christ is also

2. Jesus, the Passover Lamb

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

Mark reminds us of the PASSOVER in v1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And in v12 on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.

The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread was a feast to celebrate the Exodus, the great rescue of God’s people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land, under God’s good rule through his word. The Unleavened Bread was flat bread, bread without yeast, which is bread you can make in a hurry, if you have to leave quickly. They were to make flat bread in preparation of the sudden call to leave Egypt, that very night. Judgment would fall on the Egyptians, and the Israelites would be set free.

We’ll be reminded of Exodus again and again through the coming weeks as we look at these final chapters of Mark. The Exodus, the great miraculous rescue of a million people from slavery to a new home, was a mere shadow compared to what Jesus is achieving here. This is the real Exodus. Throughout time and history Jesus’ blood powers his mercy. Each time God relents from judgement: Jesus’ blood is there. Each time we see God meeting with sinful people: Jesus’ blood is there. Even the Exodus itself is only possible because of the blood of Jesus. The blood of lambs could not take away the guilt of the people! No, it was the blood of the true Passover Lamb, Jesus, shed 1500 years later, that washed away their guilt and spared them from the judgement on the Egyptians. God had told them what they needed to do to be rescued, and they placed their faith in his word, acting accordingly, sacrificing the lambs – and God saw their faith, and counted it to them as righteousness, covering their sins through the blood of the Son.

So the disciples meet to celebrate the Passover, while the real Passover is taking place at that moment. Interestingly, the Passover meal consists of bread, wine…and a lamb. But there is no lamb mentioned here. For the sacrificial lamb who will be slain is seated in front of them. And to ensure they understand this he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Jesus is about to be sacrificed in order to fulfil the covenant (promise) God has made with mankind. First with Adam, then Noah, then Abraham, Moses, and David. Here is the second Adam, the perfect son of God, righteous, sinless human. Here is the Ark of rescue from the judgement flood to come. Here is the descendant of Abraham come to bless all nations. Just look around! We’re from many nations. Here is the perfect Law-keeper, and the righteous eternal King.

And please note that Jesus knew that his death was not the end. Listen to verse 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

Jesus was not some poor victim of circumstances outside of his control! He himself had planned this, with his Father and Spirit, united in purpose and love to rescue sinful humanity, and bring glory to the Godhead. All praise be to God! Such love that drives Jesus willingly to the cross. Did you notice verse 16? 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

All is prepared beforehand. This must be so. God is sovereign over all things, all events – even Judas, acting out of greed or frustration, we don’t know. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him God is sovereign but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born but we are responsible for the decisions we make. Our decisions are real decisions, with real consequences; and God is fully sovereign, knowing our thoughts before we think them, preparing the way of the Son before the dawn of time.
Be comforted. Evil cannot thwart God’s plans. You cannot jump out of his hands. They found it just as he had told them. And Jesus moved deliberately towards his great work on the Cross and completed that great work. And now history moves deliberately toward the Return of the King, the great day when the veil over our eyes will be torn away, and we will see reality as it truly is, the great King Jesus upon the eternal glorious throne.

So make the right decision. Your decisions have eternal consequences. Do not be like Judas, rejecting the King, for you too will hear “woe to you, it would be better if you were never born”. Instead, fall at his feet like this woman 2000 years ago, worshipping him with costly worship. And worship is the right response, because we have been rescued, set free, by him. Jesus bore our sin on the cross. It is gone.

There are two impossible applications, one for non-Christians, the other for Christians

One is to reject Jesus. To say that’s fine, Jesus did all that, but I’ll take my chances by myself. That’s the impossible application from this passage. This should drive you to repent, not to follow Judas. It ended badly for him – he hanged himself, and his insides burst open. Not a great end – but the spiritual end is even worse. Be warned.

The other impossible application – for Christians - is to live like I am the Passover Lamb. To live like I bear my sin. To live in guilt and fear. To believe that I can fall out of God’s hands at any moment, that his sacrifice was not sufficient to bring me to glory. That’s the impossible application.

Instead, let us rejoice and sing. Let us thank God. Let us shout aloud to the God of our salvation! Let us praise him in our hearts and minds every minute of every day. We are set free! He has rescued us! All praise to the Christ, King!

All praise to our Passover Lamb, Jesus, the Christ of God!

mandag 19. november 2012

Mark 13:1-37 The future is secure AUDIO RECORDING

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Mark 13:1–14:1 The future is secure

Mark 13:1–14:1

Horoscopes, crystal balls, palm reading, tarot cards, runes, tea leaf reading, gypsy fortune tellers, clairvoyants – all these speak of a deep-seated desire to know our future. Most of us realise that’s impossible, and so laugh at the con artists I just mentioned – but the desire is still there. What’s going to happen in the future? Who wouldn’t like to peer into their future and see what’s happening? Especially if it’s good! Happy marriage, healthy, happy kids, still Christian... whatever it is, it would make it easier, wouldn’t it. Ah, I’ve made it. The anxiety disappears. I’ve made it, I’ll be alright.

Or even if it’s bad, if the way you’re currently heading is heading straight for disaster, wouldn’t you like to know now, so that you can change it? Avoid it? Dodge it somehow? Change the course of your life like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”: a miserable old man sitting alone with his bags of money to a cheery old man shouting “Merry Christmas everyone!” and spreading joy and good cheer wherever he goes.

And that’s what Jesus says here. Hey, the future is secure. But for the Jewish nation, the future in wait is a terrible one. They did not listen to Jesus. They did not repent. And we know from history that what Jesus said would happen did happen. This is not “Back to the Future” where Marty manages to save the day, or A Christmas Carol where Scrooge repents. No, this is the reality where Scrooge snarls “go away” to the ghosts showing him the truth – and where the Jewish leaders crucify their saviour and King.

1. The Temple will fall

The discussion about the future starts because of the disciples adoring their Temple building. They were proud of their spiritual heritage. It seemed immovable, secure, indestructible – like their relationship with God. They were God’s chosen race, God’s favour would forever rest upon them.

Really? We’ve just heard Jesus say 12:9 “What will the owner (God) of the vineyard (Israel) do? He will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

We saw the last couple of weeks how the Jewish leaders have rejected Jesus. The slithered up to him to attack him with clever questions designed to make him look foolish – but instead Jesus challenged them, exposing their hypocrisy, showing them that they did not love God, but themselves, and calling them to repentance. But instead of repenting, they fall silent, and ask him no more questions – when they should have been pleading for mercy “How can we be saved Jesus?”.

But, no, the elders, chief priests and scribes, representing Israel, have rejected the cornerstone, the foundation stone, the very basis of their religious life! Jesus says in 12:10 Have you not read this Scripture: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?”

You know, my great-granny was once a little bit foolish. She decided that she wanted to more space downstairs, so she decided to lower the basement floor. So she merrily started digging away the foundations! As you can guess the house started leaning alarmingly to one side. And still does. If you go into the corner of the lounge in the old house on the farm, you’ll notice the floor slopes away to the corner. Thankfully she had the presence of mind to stop digging, unlike one poor fellow I heard who carried on digging until his whole house collapsed!

If you dig away the foundations, the house cannot stand. Israel has rejected its foundation, and the Temple cannot, will not, stand.

13:2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.
Of course, the disciples’ next question is “When?!”

That’s devastating news. Imagine you’d just received a report – there will be a colossal earthquake in Notodden. “When! When!” we’d all cry out- both terrified and a little bit transfixed by the horror that is to come.

Jesus’ answer, like much prophecy, does two things at once. He talks about the immediate future that happened in AD70 when the Temple was destroyed AND he talks about the final judgement that is still to come.
For we, like Israel, have rejected our cornerstone, and heaven and earth will be shaken, and only what is holy and good and pure will be left, only that built on the unshakeable foundation of Jesus and his grace and truth. Only what is in Christ will stand at the end.

The question is: will you? Where do you stand? Have you rejected the cornerstone? Or do you rest on him? Is your life built on him? If so, remember that He is unshakeable. All that rests on him is unshakeable. You are, in him, eternally unshakeable. Your future is secure. Do not worry about the future. You belong to him.

The Temple may fall – but Jesus will stand, forever.


2. Do not be lead astray

Only Jesus is unshakeable, so don’t be lead away from him. Jesus starts off with all of Christian history in mind in verses 5-13 (the “birth pangs” of the new Creation), then zooms in to the destruction of Israel in AD70 in verses 14-18, then uses the destruction of Israel as a warning of the final judgement to come in verses 19-27.

The world before Christ’s return is marked by three things: false religion, human conflict, and natural disasters.

First, false religion: 5 See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Jesus warns us of the dangers to come: people pretending to be him (false christs) and people pretending to speak for him (false prophets). We have seen this throughout church history, and I’ll spend a little bit of time on this:

· men like Origen, who, amongst other things, claimed that Christ death would reconcile all people, even those who rejected him. Therefore there is no final judgement, and no hell. Today many continue with this false teaching, most notably Rob Bell in his book “Love Wins”. Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other topic. I’d rather listen to his words of truth, however uncomfortable, than the pleasant-sounding lies of Origen and Bell!

· Arius (Arianism denies that Jesus is God, like Jehovah’s Witnesses today),

· Macedonius (who denied the Holy Spirit is God), and

· Sabellius (who said that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were three appearances of the same person (i.e. like God is wearing three different masks) rather than three persons in one Godhead),

· Marcion, who thought the God of the Old Testament was a different God;

· and Gnostic philosophies, arising 150 or so years after Jesus’ resurrection, like Docetism (which claimed that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, i.e.: he was not fully human, merely appeared human);

· and others like Antinomianism (which divides the spirit and matter and says therefore that what we do in the body doesn’t matter, so we can sin as much as we want in the body because our spirit is saved).

So be on your guard! There’s lots of false teaching about. Know the Bible. Signs and wonders are no guarantee of truth. Are you impressed by the conmen in white suits on “Christian” TV because they do miracles and wave the Bible about and occasionally throw the name of Jesus about? Their words are poison, not truth. Man-centred salesman, selling you the lie of “Your Best Life Now” which is all about money and status rather than picking up your cross and following our Lord Jesus, claiming that you can be “Dreaming with God” or say “Good Morning, Holy Spirit” while, like Macedonius, treating the Holy Spirit like the Force from Star Wars whom we can channel to do our bidding, rather than the Almighty God.

Do not believe them, says Jesus! 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Be on your guard, Jesus has told us these things beforehand. Know his word, and you will be fine. Did you notice that “the elect” will not be deceived. Why? Because the elect know the voice of the Master. We love the Bible, we love hearing his voice, and so we will not be swayed from the truth. And that love is something we are given by the Spirit.

I’ve spoken a fair bit about dangers inside the church, but, of course, there are those outside the church who claim to speak for God: Muhammed, who claims to be a prophet of God, but contradicts what Jesus says. So who’s right, Jesus or Muhammed? Muhammed may have been a great and mighty man, but he never healed the sick, nor raised the dead, nor died for his followers – and today he is still in his grave, whereas Jesus is risen from the dead and seated upon the throne of heaven.
Likewise Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, who also claimed to speak for God. There are numerous “prophets”, many on “Christian” TV claiming to speak for God but contradicting the teaching of Scripture. And men like Sun Myung Moon founder of the South Korean “Unification Church” who claimed to be Jesus and taught that obedience to him would lead to salvation.

And then there’s the continuous wars, fighting, conflict between people groups all throughout history, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom. We are a bloodthirsty race, fighting, fighting, fighting. Wars and rumours of wars (v7) aptly describes our history.

And then there’s the natural disasters: earthquakes, famine.

Does all this make you anxious?
Don’t be. Jesus has told us this beforehand. He has not lost control of the world, but is leading it towards its final end. He is Lord of history, allowing a limited amount of evil in order to cause men to repent, but storing up punishment for every evil act. One day it will all be dealt with. And what a glorious, terrifying day that will be. Do not be lead astray, for

3. Judgement will fall

24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The tribulation, literally “troubled times”, is how the Bible talks about the world we live in. But there will come an end, when the world will be shaken, and Jesus returns.

How do we know this will happen? Because v 14-18 happened exactly as Jesus said it would. In AD70 the Roman army smashed a Jewish rebellion, and destroyed the Temple, planting their standards at the Temple altar, proclaiming allegiance to the Roman Emperor-God. That is the “the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be”. The Roman flag in the ruins of the Temple.
In the following nearly 2000 years the Temple has never been rebuilt (Jesus is the new Temple! There’s no need for it).

The rest of v14-18 describe the terrible suffering in those first Jewish wars, when Roman armies invaded Palestine. This took place only a generation after the death of Christ (v30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place), and the Jewish Christian church would have shared in the general suffering. Tradition says that the Christians fled to Pella in Transjordan (the mountains), taking Jesus’ warning to heart. V20 possibly means that the Romans could have wiped out the church, and therefore if God had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved.

AD70 warns us of the judgement to come. Jesus words will not pass away (V31). They were true of AD70, they are true of the judgement to come.

So do not be fooled. One day, at an hour we do not know, not even the Son know, but only the Father (V32) – so all you idiots trying to figure it out and proclaiming set dates can stop right now, that’s not the point! – one day he WILL return. So be on your guard.

28 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

Look at our world. Read the newspapers. What do you see? Wars and rumours of wars. Earthquakes and famines. False teachers performing miracles to lead astray the elect, if that were possible. See the signs. And know that he is near, at the very gates.

Judgement will fall. It has done so in the past, according to the word of the Lord. And it will do so again.

So what are we do to?

4. Stay awake!

33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

What does it mean to “stay awake”? It is this: to live as servants of the king, each busy with his own work. We are called to obedient service, service like the disciples are called to. For they were called to live as Christian people in a hostile world, and called to proclaim the gospel no matter what the consequences.

Let’s have a look at what Jesus commands the disciples to be busy with:

9 But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Endure to the end. Trust Christ. Do not give up. They would receive revelation from the Holy Spirit, which, by God’s grace, they wrote down for us, so that we too will not be anxious but know what to say. (Remember Jesus is speaking not to us but to the twelve. There is no excuse here for lazy Christians not knowing the Bible, but expecting the Spirit to give us the words. The Spirit gave His words to the disciples, and we are to use those inspired words to endure to the end.)

Stay awake by reading the Bible, praying, telling others about Jesus, and living like a loved son or daughter of God. You are a servant of the Master. Live like it! Every moment of every day, that is your identity. You belong to him. You are his.

To sum up then:

Do not be anxious. Our future is secured by the blood of Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, the day will come when he will gather you from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. You will meet him face to face. Secure. Safe.

But if you do not belong to him, the opposite is equally as sure. You will be shaken, and there will be no rescue.

The Temple will fall, did fall. So do not be lead astray by false teachers – only Christ holds the truth, no-one else, and only he can hold you secure against the judgement to come. And it will come. So be on your guard and stay awake! Stay awake by reading the Bible, praying, telling others about Jesus, and living like a loved son or daughter of God, secure, unshakeable, in Christ. Amen.

søndag 11. november 2012

Mark 12:13-44 What does God require of us?

Mark 12:13-44

When a serpent (snake) strikes, it strikes hard and it strikes fast. In a snake infested area, being the second person in a group of travellers is the most dangerous place to be: the first person disturbs the snake, the second person gets bitten! Bam! Quick as a flash.
But have you ever seen a snake try to bite something through glass. All the venom is there, all the speed, the power, the apparent danger – but then BONK! all that happens is that the snake gets a sore nose!

And that’s what happened in last week’s passage. The chief priests, elders and scribes slithered up to Jesus, loudly demanding to know where he got his authority to do what he was doing. Jesus commands them to repent of ignoring God’s authority over them, and tells the story of the vineyard to illustrate it. They then slither up again with the brilliant question about paying taxes, and again BONK! their nose gets squashed against the wisdom of Jesus, where he again challenges their refusal to give to God what belongs to God: themselves. They are rebels against God, trying to throw off the “chains” of God’s Anointed King: Jesus, the Christ.

And tonight the snakes come thick and fast to strike Jesus, but each time BONK! How embarrassing. This uneducated carpenter from the backwater village of Nazareth is piercing right through all their excuses and self-justification, and putting his finger again and again on the only relevant point: are you listening to God the King? Do you live with him as King, or are you rebelling against him. In the words of Psalm 2: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry”!

1. Have you not read the Scriptures?

After the Pharisees and Herodians failed (interesting aside: those two groups were politically opposed – like Frp and Rødt working together!), the Sadducees then step up to bat. Mark helpfully tells us in v18 that they don’t believe in the resurrection. They were a Jewish sect, denying certain doctrines of Judaism. And they come to put Jesus in his place.

“Ah-ha, Jesus, now listen here to this foolish example we’ve just made up about one poor woman being married multiple times.” Their proposal is simple: resurrection is foolish because if you’ve been married, then widowed, then marry again – at the resurrection, who are you married to? Both of them?! How foolish to think that we will be resurrected! It’s illogical.

But, of course, they take this question to the extreme, milking it for all its worth. You can imagine them telling this story to the crowd, people laughing as the seeecond husband dies, then the thiiiiird. They were probably rolling their eyes in scorn as they bring home the argument “whose wife will she be”, to the enjoyment of the crowd.

All eyes are then on Jesus. What will he do? What will he say?

His answer is brutally honest: “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

How often is that us? How often are we wrong because we do not know the Scriptures, and do not know the power of God.
I had a comedy postcard once which said “I’ve made up my mind, now don’t confuse me with the FACTS!”

That’s exactly what the Sadducees have done here. They’ve made up their mind as to what the Bible says, and then read it to find their own ideas. So dangerous! Have you not read, says Jesus. And ends with you are quite wrong! Their arrogant attitude to the Bible has lead them astray. Instead of reading to find out what God thinks, they read to find their own thoughts confirmed. And they missed the resurrection! The resurrection! The hope of the future. The restoration of all things. The return to Eden. What a colossal mistake! And very soon Jesus was going to demonstrate the truth of the resurrection in a very real way. The reality of the resurrection is standing before them and they miss it completely because of their arrogance.

Where are you a Sadducee? What do you refuse to believe?
Where I most struggle is with the holiness of God, and my own sinfulness. I always want to make God less holy, and myself less sinful.

God’s holiness is white-hot, like the sun. His holiness, his glory, burns fierce and bright. Our “holiness” is like a burning match – utterly dwarfed by the sun. Light a match on a summers’ day and you can’t even see it. So it is with God and us. Our best efforts are insufficient. Even the very best of us fall short. Stop fooling yourself – you cannot reach God. God must reach you.

2. Understanding the Law (Scriptures) can get us close

Enter the scribe. This is a “good” man. He is one of the best of us. He has understanding and insight. He sees the spirit of the Law. Listen again to his brilliant answer to Jesus: 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

He gets it! The law is about love, not about rules. But his love is too weak. Love is not a feeling. It is not being nice. It is not burning like a flame. This is love: Ro 5:6–8 (ESV) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That is love with power.

The scribe may have understood love intellectually, but lacked the power to carry it out.

Because how far can the law take you, even properly understood? “Not far” from the Kingdom.
But it cannot take you in. Only the King of the Kingdom, only Jesus, can grant you access.

The man has understanding, but his heart is not right. He, too, does not understand scripture. He has forgotten Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Or perhaps he does not believe it.

He refuses to believe that the only way to love God and love his fellow men properly is if Jesus has first loved him, and transformed him from the inside out. And so he falls silent, and no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The fools! What question should they have been asking?
“How do I get into the kingdom?”
“How do I get right with the owner of the vineyard?”
“Can I appeal to the king?”

For to do nothing is just as foolish as to oppose the King. Only those who come to Jesus will receive mercy. The rest of us, those who oppose, and those who do nothing, will be his enemies.

And his enemies will be soon crushed underfoot.

3. Jesus is the King

After his accusers fall silent, Jesus begins to question them, exposing their lack of belief in the Scriptures. How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ 37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?”

They could not conceive of the Almighty God making himself as nothing, as a human being. The incarnation (God becoming man) is mind-blowing. That he should walk on earth, limited and frail. That he should be a baby, dependant on his mother and father. Incredible. What love the King has!
But the religious leaders could not imagine such a love, and so they ignore the Scripture which teaches about the incarnation.
Jesus is both King of Heaven, and the earthly descendant of David. Through Mary he is the son of David.
David correctly calls Jesus “Lord”, because he is. And Jesus is also the son of David, according to the flesh.

Do you see the irony in this passage? Because remember who he is talking to v27 the chief priests and scribes and elders. These are the spiritual leaders of Israel, the religious elite! And yet they do not believe in the Word of God.

How timely! When we see the church in the West filled with unbelief, with religion instead of grace, when the very minsters of God’s Word don’t believe in the resurrection, or the incarnation. Good grief! No resurrection, no Christianity. What on earth are you doing then? It reminds me of the poem by JRR Tolkien on the fall of the West: “Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain, like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow. How did it come to this?”

It came to this because we, like the Sadducees, like the religious leaders of Israel, abandoned our trust in the Word of God, and put our trust in our own foolish wisdom. Thank God for faithful men of God in the South and East, Africa, Middle East, Asia: bishops in Nigeria threatening to split from the Anglican Communion if the Archbishop of Canterbury does not start taking the Bible seriously; men like Asif in Pakistan, and many like him in Pakistan, India, China, Indonesia, faithfully preaching the gospel despite beatings, threats, and in many cases, martyrdom (being killed for being a Christian).

We in the West must learn from our brothers and sisters in the Majority World. They understand what is important. They understand that Jesus is the King, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, who will crush his enemies underfoot. This is the reality. Jesus came once as servant, to die a sinners death, to set free sinners like you and I. But that was a one time event. He reigns now as King, and will return not to serve but to be served, and anyone who has not bowed the knee will be cast into the lake of fire.

So beware of those who preach a false gospel, those who are full of themselves. V38 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” There are many such men (and women) at large in the “Christian” church today, as there has always been. Be on your guard.

4. The right response

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

And here we see illustrated the spiritual reality behind chapter 12. The rich people: the religious elite, the elders, scribes and chief priests; giving to God their leftovers. We’ve seen that the words of the prophet Malachi lie behind much of chapters 11 and 12, warning of the coming day of the Lord. In Malachi, the Lord had four complaints against his people, the first of them was this: the people are offering impure sacrifices (giving God the worst of the land, instead of the best – lip service, not heartfelt worship). Mal 1:11–14 (ESV) For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

We cannot fob God off with our cast-offs, with the remainder of our lives, the left-overs of our time and money. God is a great King, and demands and deserves all. Like the widow, we are called to have faith, to trust God with everything. Jump in, no lifelines. She gave everything she had.

What are you holding back from the King?

Are you trying to be good enough? Do you not trust that his death is sufficient for you?
Are you keeping your marriage out of his hands? Men, are you leading your wives? Taking responsibility for your relationship, spiritually, sexually, emotionally. Are you lovingly serving your family? Women, are you helping your husband in his task, joyfully submitting, encouraging, loving?
What about your sexuality? Do you think he is blind when you’re masturbating in front of your computer? Or he does not see when you lust after a woman or man you’re not married to?
Or your money? Is it your money? Or God’s? Do you give to God first, and then decide what to do with the rest? Or take for yourself and give God whatever’s left over?
Or your time? Do you make time to listen to God, in private Bible reading, Wed Bible study, church? Or is it a “if I’ve got nothing better to do”?
Or your reputation? DO people at work or school even know you’re a Christian?
You belong to the King. Trust him. You are his. You are safe in his hands. So stop living a half-hearted Christian life (if there is such a thing), and start living for the King. Do not be like the “rich”, for they will be crushed underfoot by King Jesus. Be the poor widow, and throw yourself on the mercy of God.

Let me end by telling you a personal story:

In 1995 I was 19 years old, and a "good Christian boy". I read the Bible every day. I prayed. I could give you the right answer about pretty much everything when it came to God and Jesus and Christianity. But my heart was far from God. When my daily God-slot was done, ticked off, an empty religious act, then the rest of the day belonged to me, life was mine, and I ran it as I wanted. And I must admit that I ran it badly, wounding many, including my uncle and aunt. I was full of pride and self-righteousness - while I stepped on and hurt people, and where others could see right away that I actually had no relationship with Jesus (or it was at least well hidden!). I fooled myself and felt superior while I was playing with sin.

What grace was shown me on that day God broke through! The day I suddenly heard the voice of the King, challenging me. Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? I was wrong! And as I repented and ask the Lord to forgive me it was like the sun had come out for the first time. The next day I woke up and everything was new. I belonged to Jesus - all of me! I am his child.

Trust Jesus. His grace is sufficient for you. Confess your sin, your rebellion, for he is faithful and just to forgive.

Do it now, because he could return at any moment, and then it will be too late. Do not be fooled: he is the King. Remember last week? What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Give to God what belongs to God: you.

tirsdag 6. november 2012

Mark 11:27-12:17 Give to God what belongs to God (everything, including you)

Mark 11:27-12:17

This is the part where I’m supposed to have some amazing introduction which will grab your attention and make you want to hear more. Well I don’t because actually I just want to get straight to what Jesus is saying tonight!

Tonight’s passage is thrilling because once again we’re reminded that we’re set free from the tyranny of being good enough. No, says Jesus, good works won’t save you, religion won’t save you, outward holiness won’t save you – but I can save you. I am the cornerstone, the foundation of the ultimate rescue plan.
The Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

Great news! Let’s get stuck in to the passage!

1. Whose authority? 

Jesus has been creating quite a stir – and this outside the “official” channels. It started off with his baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, who himself had created quite a stir outside the official channels, and continued with Jesus teaching with authority, forgiving sins, healing sickness, and casting out demons. In short, doing everything the promised Christ (rescuer, King, servant) would do.

Jesus was becoming a real headache to the leaders of Israel, both religious and civil. And now Jesus had come to their turf, to the heart of government, to the heart of their religious power: Jerusalem. And showed them up! Clearing the Temple, turfing out the money-changers and the merchants. How dare he! They earned a good living out of charging them rent in the Temple areas... never mind that that was forbidden by God....

They would dearly love to get rid of him – but Jesus was undeniably popular. A huge crowd had just welcomed him in, shouting praise, declaring him the Saviour King 11:9 “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

King Herod had taken care of John the Baptist, but how to dispose of Jesus….

So they slither up to him to challenge him 11:27 And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him.
Did you notice who it is that’s coming to challenge him? the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
The last time we saw all these together was in 8:31, the first time Jesus tells the disciples he is going to die, just after they have declared him as the Christ: And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

And here they are, slithering in for the kill, like oily snakes. “Where’s your authority?” they demand. After all, he was a backwater prophet, from Nazareth no less, and they were the legitimate, God-ordained leaders of Israel.

But they had forgotten that they were leaders UNDER God. They were not a law unto themselves – they had to give an account to the owner (God) of the vineyard (Israel). They had forgotten where their own authority had come from. What right had they to turn the Temple into a den of thieves? What right had they to plot murder against the beloved son? What right had they to reject the word of the Lord, spoken through the mouth of the King, and try to take the vineyard for themselves?

Jesus’ question in verse 30 “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” is brilliant, because John’s authority and Jesus’ authority come from the same source: God Almighty. It is the owner of the vineyard who demands a return from the tenants. And so the “tenants” (elders, chief priests, and scribes) are now stuck – if they acknowledge John’s authority, they acknowledge God’s authority, and therefore Jesus’ authority over them.
Jesus exposes their heart problem – they do not want to listen to God. They do not want to obey him. Surrounded by the trappings of religion, being good Jews, the best of Jews, even; sacrificing daily, following the law slavishly – yet hating God.
They want to be God over God.

Oh, religious people are very good at this. It is so easy to fall into the trap of doing things for God so that God will owe you. We obey, not because we want to please God, not because we are saved by grace and rejoice in knowing our Heavenly Father – no, we obey because we want to earn a bank of credit with God, so that we can make him do things for us because now he owes us.
If you’re asking God for things and he’s GOT to do it – well, who’s really God?
That’s our problem of sin – we want to be God instead of letting God be God. We have swapped him out with us.

If we fall into that trap we, like the religious people in this story here, have forgotten the depth of our sin. We have forgotten that we are rebels against God, we are adulterers who have left our true spouse and gone running after other gods, a shameful state. We can never pay back the debt that we owe God, never mind him owing us.
We must not fool ourselves.
And if we are Christians, trusting in Christ alone and his grace alone for our salvation, well, we are double debtors – we are made by God and owe him everything, and rescued by God and owe him everything. What fools we are when we demand our “rights” from God. Have we forgotten that we already have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1)? We have everything that could ever matter! What we moan and groan about are unimportant things, garbage that will be thrown on the fire.

And don’t be fooled by others, no matter how good or religious they may seem. There are plenty of “Christians”, even ministers, even in our little town, whose hearts are far from God while they pretend to serve in his name. Test everything against the words of the Bible. Do not be fooled.

And fear God rather than man. How often are we, as Christians, more like the Pharisees than Jesus! Look at verse 32 – they were “afraid of the people”. No fear of God, but fear of man. Proverbs tells us that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of man, by contrast, is foolishness.

So we are forced to ask: Do I trust God enough to fear him, to obey him? Do I trust him to carry me through, no matter the consequences of standing for him?
A couple of weeks ago I told you about Asif, a Pakistani Muslim who became a Christian, and laid everything on the line for Jesus. He lost his home, he was poisoned, he was beaten and left for dead. Yet he does not fear man, and keeps holding out the message of life and forgiveness even to those who are beating him. What a crown of glory awaits Asif! What an example for us. 

Do not fear, but pick up your cross and follow Jesus, into your workplace, into your family, into your friendships, wherever you may be. For we are under authority, and it is not our own, but it is the Lord Jesus. We belong to him.

“By whose authority do you do this?”

The authority of the King, the Lord of all, Jesus, the Christ.

2. The vineyard (a.k.a. the history of Israel) 

12:1 [Then Jesus] began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.

The history of Israel, the vineyard in this parable, reads like a tragedy of the worst kind. They had everything, given everything by a kind and generous ruler – yet they threw it all away, rebelling against the ruler and murdering his servants, his messengers bringing messages of peace.
The parable of the vineyard is based on Isaiah 5:1-7 and Isaiah 5:7 puts it like this: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
he tenants (Israel’s leaders) rejected the warnings of the servants (the prophets) treating them shamefully, even murdering them.
John the Baptist, the greatest and last of the Old Testament prophets, was murdered by the king of Israel, King Herod.

6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 

8:31 And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

As Jesus tells the parable, you really feel the incredible stupidity of the tenants – do they really think they’ll get away with this? And why doesn’t the owner do anything?

It reflects so well the tension in the prophets between God’s extraordinary patience and the breathtaking stupidity of Israel’s persistently rebellious leaders who seek to take advantage of it. But remember Mark 1:2, quoting Malachi 3? Behold, I send my messenger before your face and it continues in Malachi - and the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his Temple. Be warned, the long-threatened judgment that marked the end of God’s patience has arrived: he will accomplish his purposes! The Lord has arrived at his Temple, and judgement will fall.

They want to kill the “beloved Son”. We’ve seen that phrase twice before in Mark’s gospel: “beloved Son” was used at his baptism, and his transfiguration. His baptism revealed him to be the King of God’s Kingdom, the transfiguration revealed him to be almighty God.
There are big echoes here of Psalm 2: the nations plotting against the anointed King, they want to reject him, to throw off his rule. Whose authority do you have, they sneer. They don’t want to obey. Let us kill him, they plot.

But they plot in vain, because the Lord in heaven laughs. What will the King do? He will terrify them in his wrath and curse the fig tree. He will cut them off from the land and destroy them.

9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 

Is 5:5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

They did not listen to their Elijah (John the Baptist) and the terrifying day of the Lord (as prophesied in Malachi) is at hand. The old order of Israel is about to be swept away, because they refuse to bow to the true King.

3. The new vineyard 

9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?”

Jesus quotes in v10 from Psalm 118:22-23 the same Psalm the crowd was quoting during the Triumphal entry (when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, being hailed as the King): Psalm118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. Jesus is the fulfilment of this Psalm. He is the cornerstone of salvation, the gate of righteousness. In Hebrew the word stone is ʾeben- the word son is bēn. Jesus is the stone, the son of God, the cornerstone of the new people of God. For, unlike in Isaiah, did you notice, the vineyard is not destroyed in this parable, but given to others.

The “others” into whose care it is given are the Twelve, whose servant leadership must reflect the pattern of Jesus’ self-giving (10:42–45). Jesus is the basis of the new vineyard of Israel, the new Temple of God.

1 Pe 2:4–10 (ESV) As you come to [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We are the new Israel, Jews and Gentiles together, under the King. We are God’s vineyard, his Temple, a holy nation and royal priesthood. What great news! It is marvellous in our eyes!

The priests and elders and scribes should be rejoicing, not plotting murder! They should repent and as Psalm 2 puts it “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.

But they don’t. They try to trap him v13. There is such irony in this interchange – just listen to what they say about Jesus: Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.
They are being obsequious, flattering to deceive – but it’s true. And they, by contrast v12 “feared the people”.

But Jesus does not fear the people, but loves the people, even those trying to trap him, and tells the truth. We bear the imprint of our Creator, just like a coin bears the imprint of the emperor. The vineyard belongs to God, we belong to God, and therefore as we Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, let us also [render] to God the things that are God’s.

To sum up then,

The old corrupt order is being judged (they kill their own Messiah!). External religion, with its emphasis on outward appearance, doing good in order to win favour, and letting public opinion steer the truth (hmm, sounds like the church in the West today) is once again shown to be bankrupt, ruinous, and utterly opposed to the living God. You cannot be right with God by being good enough.

By contrast, the new order is rising, with Jesus as its cornerstone and foundation, his mercy and grace and self-sacrifice setting the standard for this new order: the church. We are a holy nation, a kingdom of priests – that is who we are, that is our identity- Let us live like it, by the grace of God. Let us remember that we belong to him, he owns us, we are twice bought, we owe Him everything.


Sunday school has started!

Hurra! Sunday school has started for the children (which they are VERY excited about).
Debby is leading the Sunday school.

They are doing an overview of the Bible, starting with Creation and ending with Revelation.
There are currently 2 children and they are praying with expectancy for more (Kaleb prayed and then immediately asked when "all the other children" would be coming. Sweet!)

Language is currently English, but Norwegian can be spoken if necessary.

Please pray for our children's church!