The Fruitless Fig Tree

Mark 11

Mark 11 22

In Mark 11:12-14 we see Jesus appear to get upset and curse a fig tree because he was hungry and there was no fruit on it.

“On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.” Mark 11:12-14

About a month ago, when our family was reading together, we came across this passage. My kids thought it was funny that Jesus was hungry and looking for food. It tickled them that he got “hangry” and cursed the fig tree because there wasn’t any food to be had. But this is a misunderstanding. Notice that the Scripture says there were leaves. Usually when a fig tree has leaves, it also has fruit.  Jesus saw the fig tree from a distance and it looked like it was flourishing. It looked as though it should have fruit. Upon closer inspection, it did not. Jesus found this situation worthy of cursing.

Later, in 11:20-21 Peter mentions to Jesus that the fig tree he cursed is withered (dead). Jesus’ response is interesting. He says, “Have faith in God.” He tells him that if you believe God can do amazing things through you, without doubting, He will! There will be good fruit. And what does this mean for us? We need to be careful about how we are presenting ourselves. Do I look promising? Do I look like a tree that’s healthy with lots of foliage, but in reality I’m not bearing any fruit? If so, I need to understand that this won’t be enough. Jesus finds this worthy of cursing and death. May we all be faithful, flourishing, and bearing fruit for our Father.

-Melissa New

Divorce

Mark 10

Mark 10 8b

There are many things that man has come up with that God really didn’t create us to do. The Pharisees loved to bring the complicated subjects up to Jesus and see what he said. They were always comparing his teachings to the teachings of Moses. So the Pharisees go to Jesus and start discussing divorce. Jesus says for them to go ahead and tell him what Moses commanded.  They say that Moses said it was okay “to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” Jesus admits that this is true, but reminds them that the Hebrews Moses was dealing with were a rebellious and ungrateful people. This was not the best way. In the beginning God wanted man and woman to “become one flesh” and stay that way. In Mark 10:9 Jesus says “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Jesus’ disciples wanted to make absolutely sure that they understood Jesus on this subject. So later they bring it up again. In verses 11 and 12 Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” They knew without a doubt that adultery is wrong. It’s one of the ten commandments. “You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

We might ask “Why is this so?” Ultimately we have to trust that God knows what is best and wants what’s best for us. We can look at divorce in our society and see some of the ramifications of it and see for ourselves that it’s hard on families. Does God want us to be happy? Without a doubt, YES! Read Psalm 37:3-5 God wants to give us the desires of our hearts. We need to trust Him, be committed to Him and His ways, and do good.  Our Father will take care of the rest.

Melissa New

 

 

A Mountain of Confusion

Mark 9

Mark 9 7

When I realized later that I had volunteered to write a blog over this chapter I winced. Oh, dear. There is so much confusion out there about the transfiguration. Some say it confirms the “deity” of Christ. Some say it confirms that there is no “soul sleeping” because if there were, then Elijah and Moses could not have been there. I don’t have all of the answers, of course, but I would have a couple rebuttals to each of these assertions.

I don’t see the “deity” of Christ at all for two major reasons. It’s true that Jesus is transfigured and is shown in a new and powerful way on that mountain. He is glorified, radiant and shining, and wearing shockingly white clothing all of the sudden.  However,

  1. Peter had just previously acknowledged who Jesus was. In Mark 8:29 Peter says, “You are the Christ.” The Matthew account of this has Peter saying more, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) It seems very unlikely that Peter, James, and John thought Jesus was God.
  2. Then there is the cloud and the voice out of the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7) They didn’t think Jesus was in the cloud. And the voice in the cloud did not say, “This Jesus is also your Father in heaven.”

I still don’t have a problem believing in “soul sleep” either. I believe Elijah and Moses were resting in peace (RIP) and were awakened for this transfiguration.

  1. We are told in Deuteronomy 34 that Moses died and was buried. And we see at the end of Hebrews 11 that Moses, and many others including Elijah, have not received what was promised yet “so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
  2. In 1 Samuel 28 we see that Samuel was “disturbed” after dying and being buried because Saul wanted to chat with him. In that chapter we see that he came “up out of the earth.” There is no mention of his soul floating down from heaven to meet his body coming out of the earth. And he would need his soul to have a conversation with Samuel. Just as Elijah and Moses appeared with bodies and souls.

What I would like to know is what Elijah and Moses were talking to Jesus about! And another thing that I find interesting is that Peter, James, and John seemed to recognize Elijah and Moses right away. It doesn’t look like Jesus introduced them. I suppose this is how it will be in the kingdom. 🙂

Melissa New

 

Compassion & Faith vs. Reality & Doubt

Mark 8

Mark 8 35

Have you ever thought about how imperfect the disciples, that Jesus himself chose to follow him, were? They have already seen Jesus feed the 5,000 (back in chapter 6). Here there are about 4,000 hungry folks and compassionate Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “We can’t let them leave here hungry, can we?” Immediately the disciples say, “We can’t feed all these people.” And the excuses come out… “There are too many.” “We are out in the middle of nowhere.” “We only have 7 loaves.” The reality of the situation has them seriously doubting that they can do anything.

Now let’s think about ourselves in the church. Are we full of compassion and faith or do we also look at the reality in front of us and let doubt convince us that we are unable to do what seems too hard for us? I know the excuses I can find myself making. “Someone else can do a better job.” “I have a lot on my plate already. I can’t take on anything else.” “I can’t do this. I have no experience with it.” Excuses can even come with negative attitudes… “Why doesn’t someone else do it?”  “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not smart enough.” Or even, “I just don’t want to.” Where did the compassion and faith go?

Jesus makes a good point later on in Mark 8:34-35. He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

So it turns out that it wasn’t about the disciples and what they thought they were capable of. Just like it’s not about me and what I want my life to be like or even what I think it is already. Let’s not overanalyze things, but let compassion and faith move us.

(There is a short book by Thom Rainer called I am a Church Member. I recommend it. It changed my attitude on things about church that I was a little grumpy about.)

-Melissa New

How to Really Honor God

Mark 7

Mark 7 6b

It’s Saturday!
By now we have gone a complete week since Fuel has ended. Some of us maybe have gone back to our old ways, but others may be trying to make their habits (here we go) DIFFERENT!

This week I have been reading through Mark 7! While I was reading, there were two verses that stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Mark 7:6 &7 say, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Jesus was quoting Isaiah. Jesus said this because the Pharisees saw the disciples of Jesus eating with unclean hands. It was against tradition for the Pharisees and the Jews to eat without clean hands. Jesus challenges the Pharisee’s teachings with what it really means to honor God.

Reading that first part of verse 7 stood out because it really got me thinking of myself. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” When we all leave FUEL and other church camps we all sometimes go back to our old ways and just forget what camps like FUEL are actually for – bettering our faith and love for God with the fellowship of our COG family.

We can all show our love for God freely around people we know at places like FUEL but when we come back to modern day society some of us feel like we shouldn’t/can’t show it as much. When you come back to your normal life you have to feel conviction in your heart that you’re going to continue to show God’s love even outside of FUEL. Even though some of us don’t do this, back to what Jesus said to the Pharisees, some of us might honor him with what we say but not really in our hearts. Although our hearts may be unclean, God still loves us and gives us many ways to honor him!

There is no one way to honor God. We all have unique ways to show our love. Some of us might be amazing speakers, some might be fantastic writers, and some like myself love to honor him with music. Just because we have different ways of showing our love for him, doesn’t mean we should hide it. It’s gifts from him to show that He loves us no matter what; and that we should embrace it.

God bless,
Isaac Terrones

Different – Like Jesus

Mark6BellaPic

Mark 6

 

Wow! It’s now been a full week since Fuel ended, and I’m sure that many of you who attended are, like me, missing your friends, your classes, the sessions, and the overall atmosphere. But hopefully, we have been able to take what we learned that week and apply it to the way we live our everyday lives. How to be (drum roll, please)…DIFFERENT! We can see many examples of how to be different and serve the way Jesus served in Mark chapter 6. I think of this chapter as a sort of series of steps telling us how we are meant to serve.

So Jesus starts this chapter off with saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4) The King James version actually says, “in his own country.” So in essence, he’s telling us, “Hey, I know you like your friends, your family, your home, and it’s easy to feel comfortable there, but I need you to GO OUT and share the truth with the world.” It is not God’s will for us to stay confined to our own little nook of the world. We have to go love everybody, everywhere. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone, and love people there.

The next main point Jesus gets to is that when you stop in a town to share the truth with people, they might not accept it; they may simply say “no”. In that case, our job is to “shake the dust off our feet” (Mark 6:11), and move on. Because what happens when we stay in one place, working on bringing the same person to the truth for too long? We miss out on bringing so many other people to the truth! If someone is not willing to accept the truth and live for God, we have to know that it’s time to move on and find people who are. Because our mission is to get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.

After the sad and brutal story of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus told the disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” (Mark 6:31) In order to help other people build a relationship with God, we need to keep ours strong. Luke 5:16, one of the memory verses from last week, says “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” So one important step we have to take in our lives is to take the time to go somewhere by ourselves and focus on our own spiritual health, so that we may be better equipped to go out and make disciples.

In verses 33-44, we read about how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It says in verse 34 that Jesus saw them and felt compassion for them. But he didn’t just push the feeling away and continue on; he acted on his compassion. He did something. It may seem impossible to do what Jesus did, but God provides you with the means to do what you are called to do. And it’s not impossible by the way – if God thinks that you should feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake, you will feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake.

Next we come to Jesus walking on the water. His disciples were astonished when he climbed in the boat all nonchalant after walking out to the middle of the sea to calm the winds for them. Why were they so flabbergasted? I mean, they just witnessed him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish! Well, in verse 52 we read that they “had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Don’t let your heart be hardened. Open your eyes to the things God is doing all around you, and let it affect you. Let it change your mindset, your behavior, the very way you live your life. Because that’s why God let Jesus do these crazy things, so that we could see His power and have faith in Him. Later on, in verses 53-56, we see how the people of Gennesaret recognize Jesus and flock to him, assuming that he can heal them, because they know he has before. Flock to Jesus. Know his Father’s power. Trust in Him. Let Him make you different.

 

-Isabella Osborn

 

 

 

 

Love & Compassion

Mark 5

Mark 5 2

Coming off the week of Fuel is always hard; we go from an amazing week of worship and fellowship back to our regular lives. However, it is important not to return to that pattern. We should be able to have people around us see the difference that has been made. We want people to know we are Christians by our love. This chapter, Mark 5, is an excellent example of that. In the latter half we see Christ commend a woman’s faith that helped make her well. He also brings a child, of whom he doesn’t know, back from the dead. He showed that love and compassion to random strangers, but more interestingly to me, he showed love and compassion to a demon in the beginning.

At the beginning of this chapter we see he goes to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gerasenes. There he finds a man who is possessed by the demon legion, who has broken all restraints that have been used against him and has been cutting the man’s body as well. As soon as Christ arrives there the demon possessed man came running to him and was begging him to leave the area, and to not torment him. There are other stories where the demon has been cast out and they move on, but Jesus takes the time to ask his name, he even gives legion permission to take over the pigs nearby rather than just cast him out. He leads by example here, for he said to love your enemy. He could’ve not listened to the demon and driven him out to be done, but he didn’t. He took the time to talk to legion and showed mercy in letting him possess the pigs.

Sometimes we struggle enough showing compassion to people we work with and see on a daily basis, maybe we find them a little too talkative or annoying but that is no reason to not show love. I know plenty of teachers I work with who just get on my nerves sometimes because they have problems everyday with the little things, like their password or volume on their computer. It’s important though that I don’t get mad or angry with them because we are called to love and being upset when someone is having trouble or struggling will only make it worse. If Christ can show compassion to a demon possessing and harming a man, we should be able to find compassion in ourselves for those around us, even when it is hard.

So, start today.  Sit down with that one person we might try to avoid, talk to the one who seems out of place, have patience with them and put yourself out there to be known as the one who shows kindness and compassion to all. Try to lead by example and show compassion to others in our lives, even if they seem to torment us like a demon. It’ll be hard but just maybe from this we can learn to be a light and hopefully inspire them to follow suit.

 

Have a great week and hold strong,

 

-Kyle Cheatwood