Bracing for impact (Mark 1:4-8)

At the beginning, when all things were created, we were set up with every good thing within our reach.

The beauty of creation was a constant reminder of our Creator and every detail reflected His intentional love for us.  Our relationship with this Creator and with the opposite sex had no shame or drama and all of this beauty and goodness was readily available to us.   It was the perfect gig, but we messed it up (like we do).

We wanted more despite God providing with us with everything we needed and then some.  So in our lust for more we grew suspicious of God and felt that He was holding out on us.  We listened to the enemy who so artfully tempted us away from trusting the God of Creation, thus destroying our relationship with Him and each other, and plunging all of creation into a broken and tangled mess.

SIN – the condition of the human race that says to God, “I don’t trust you to know what’s best for my life.”

This is where we find our friends the Israelites.  As the stage is set in the book of Mark they are a broken and oppressed people under the mighty boot heel of the great Roman Empire.  They’ve waited for God to fulfill His promise of sending a savior to relieve them of their suffering and restore things to the way they were before we screwed up everything.

However, instead of sending this savior right away, He chose to wait.

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – Mark 1:4

The heart of man is soaked in the lie that God is holding out on us; that He is somehow keeping secrets on where ‘real’ life is found and we’ve bought it without question.  The lie is like a splinter that has worked its way deep into our hearts and it’s going to take some time to soften before it can be extracted.

So, God sends John the Baptist to pave the way for His son Jesus to come to earth.  John comes with a message that reflects the heart of God saying “there’s a better way … be forgiven and learn to trust Me again.”   This was a breath of fresh of air to the people of Israel who were used to hearing the tough religious rules from their leaders hammered into them over and over.

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem when out to him.  Confessing their sins, the were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”   – Mark 1:5

Do you think they needed some hope or what?   The whole Judean countryside?   All the people of Jerusalem?  You don’t even need to know the region to imagine a horde of people attracted to this fresh news.  John wasn’t some cheap, street corner charlatan with the same old message.  He didn’t offer stale religion, he wasn’t holding up a list of rules, he was pointing to something more authentic, something bigger than himself.

And this was his message:  “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  – Mark 1:7,8

The physical image of an invisible god is about to enter the stage.  The world needs a buffer, a voice that will prepare it for what’s to come.

John is also a very attractive example and a superb communicator – the best this world has to offer.  However, he knows his place and even though people are drawn to him and his message, he’s already preparing the world for “the one more powerful” … one greater.

He’s calling the people who are willing to listen to brace for impact because God is making his final move in extracting the splinter.  However, the water of John’s baptism is only preparing the splinter to be extracted.  The one who will come after him, God’s son, will pour out a way of life that can only come from the Creator.

What are some experiences you’ve had with stale religion that have left you wanting more from God?

Do you see the wisdom of God sending another before he sends the long-awaited savior?

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ELI’S EAR TIME (Alexi Murdoch)

by Eli Berry

Find a spot on the floor

Lay down.
Close your eyes.
And listen to Alexi Murdoch’s “Slow Revolution

In a world of constant noise it is sometimes good and, I believe, necessary to escape to a quiet place.   This song (as do many of Murdoch’s) leads me to just such a place.  It leads me to a place of gentle reflection and stillness.

Even though it’s a good bet that it wasn’t Alexi’s intent to do this, “Slow Revolution” fills me with a strange assurance that God knows what He’s doing in this crazy and confusing world.  It reminds me and assures me that even though God’s plan for our lives is sometimes hard to put a finger on (as if we could ever actually ascertain this), He is indeed working out a slow revolution in the lives of those who are in Him.

This ‘revolution’ is called sanctification; God lovingly redeeming His creation to become more like Him, one day at a time.  As many of you already know, this is a slow process the majority of the time.  Sometimes it can even be painful.  In these painful times it can feel dreadfully slow.

Thankfully, no matter the speed of the process, it is a God-given revolution of the self that is constantly be reshaped by Him (Romans 8:28).  So, slow or not, we have a reason to rejoice in either good times or painful times.

Sanctification only happens when we are leaning into and trusting the Lord because, after all, a revolution cannot take place with just one.

“And all of this matter soon won’t matter much anymore”

-Alexi Murdoch, Slow Revolution

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Self sufficient believers

“I’ve got this”  – To keep a situation under control that is chaos thriving to the point that you feel you own it, you’ve got this taken care of.  (Urban Dictionary)

I was reading a popular devotional recently and the author was warning about the trap of self-sufficiency (as if we actually have a choice).  The Israelites were being led by God into the wilderness and they were given manna to eat each morning.  He was providing for His people, but His instructions included that they didn’t gather more than what they would be able to eat that day.  None should be saved for the next day.  The take away from this, apparently, is that we should trust God daily and keep coming back to Him each day for our provision, rather than trying to take matters into our own hands.

As good Christians we all agree with this (cue the smattering of “amens” from the front row), and then we stand in line at our favorite coffee shop and stress over whether we should get skim milk, soy milk, or almond milk in our skinny latte (it’s a banner day when they have almond milk).

I feel sorry for those of us who have grown up in a world where we’ve been able to easily access everything we not only need, but also many things we want.  Honestly, how many of us worry where we’re going to get our drinking water today?  How many of us can’t readily get the medicine we need to relieve our aches and pains?  How many of us are hurting for a meal?

Most people reading this have grown up in a situation where their main concerns have been over wants not needs.  Just remember … it’s not your fault.  You’ve grown up this way.  We’ve been handed everything we need and then some.   You might have even accepted Jesus into your heart at some point along the way, but trusting Him for provision has been nothing more than a verbal exercise.   No wonder we have a hard time turning things over to God.  No wonder living life with our hands open is so hard.  It’s because we usually have them clutched so tightly.

God: Chris, let go and trust me.

Chris:  No thanks God, I’ve got this!

Sound familiar?

Speak up.  Other than salvation, what are you ‘really’ trusting God for in you life?

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Beginnings (Mark 1 : 1 – 3)

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”       (Mark 1 : 1)

Every beginning has an end, and most every beginning starts with a promise.  When I used to read stories to my kids that started with, “Once upon a time,” they expected a satisfying conclusion that would end with something like:  “and they lived happily ever after.

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Mark promises his audience (the Jews, God’s chosen people) ‘good news’ from the start, and he connected that ‘good news’ to a person – Jesus Christ.
The people he was writing to were weary, downtrodden, oppressed and fearful.  They needed a break.  They needed some good news.  Maybe you can identify with that.

God promised Mark’s readers that He would send someone to relieve their suffering.  He promised someone who would come as King and wipe out the stain of evil, bringing peace and justice with him.  He wasn’t sending just anyone either.  He was sending His Son.

Injustice?     Gone.

Oppression?    Toast.

Fear?    Annihilated.

It’s like Superman coming to the rescue of Metropolis!
It’s like Batman taking out his tortured past on the crime world of Gotham City!
Who wouldn’t want to hear about THAT guy?  The Son of God!  Wow!

That sounds amazing, but here’s the problem.  That promise came two thousand years earlier and, to top it all off, they hadn’t heard anything from God at all in 400 years.
Yeah, maybe you’re thinking what I’m thinking.  “That’s a long time!”  (understatement of the decade)
Let’s see, 200 years ago Napoleon was on his way to conquering Europe and the world was shaking in its shoes.  Remember that?

No?  Why not?

Oh yeah, because that was 200 years ago!

Come to think of it, just 400 years ago the United States wasn’t even a thought on anyone’s mind (which is proven by the absence of Wal-Marts in North America at the time).   I can’t even remember who won the Super Bowl that year ….

Do you get the picture?  400 years is a long, long time.

So, we have a group of heavily oppressed people relying on a two thousand year-old promise from a God they haven’t heard from in 400 years.

I’m skeptical.

These Jews, though, … they have tradition.  The testimony of their God’s promises in the past had been told and re-told from generation to generation to anyone who’d listen.   The stories were a reminder of just how good God was at keeping His promises to His people, and His people EXPECTED Him to come.

They expected Him to come with powerful words or powerful weapons, or both.  They understood the term “Kingdom of God” to mean ‘favored-nation’ status.  People would talk about them all over the world.

Mark starts out with a reminder of the promise.  He quotes a voice from the past, a very familiar verse in the story of God’s deliberate love and pursuit of His people.

“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way — a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”  (Mark 1 : 2b-3)

They’re saying, “Wait?”  “What?”

“What’s all this about a messenger?  We’ve spent 400 years waiting to hear from God and He sends us a paperboy?
Yikes!  What kind of sick joke is that?   Where’s the King?  Where are the armies and the parades?  Where’s the party?  I mean, c’mon!  Give us the real deal!  We’re in pain!  We’re suffering and we need some relief here!”

Maybe you can relate.

Has God been silent in your life?  Has it been a while since you’ve heard him speak to you?
Maybe you’ve never heard Him speak.   Perhaps you’re skeptical because you’re relying on other people’s experiences with Him to tell you what He’s like or what He wants from us.

I think Mark is looking to show us what God would be like with skin on – the unseen becoming the seen so we can truly encounter Him so He might be made known to us in a real way.
It’s easy to be super-critical of an unseen God, but perhaps the Creator of all things had a reason for His delay in revealing the Promised One.

There are those who say that the hearts of God’s people needed to be prepared to receive Him after all of that silence.  What work needs to happen in your life to hear from God again?  What paths need to be straightened in your life in order for you to encounter Him in a significant way?

 

 

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Eli’s EAR TIME (Ascend the Hill – O Ransomed Son)

by Eli Berry

I have a deep love for hymns. Each has its own thick history with a meaningful story behind it as to why it was written.  Hymn lyrics cut right to my core and shake up my insides.   I got the same feeling listening to Ascend the Hill’s sophomore album “O Ransomed Son.”  Released in April 2012, this album sticks to the rich, almost forgotten song writing style of hymns from long, long ago, but it also brings us something new.

Lyrically, it’s a nice balance of self reflection and the outward recognition of Christ’s glory.  Musically, it’s well crafted and raw, going hand-in-hand with the words sung over it.  Also, the instrumentation of Ascend the Hill is what sets them apart from other praise and worship acts of our time.  The contrast between the opener “So Good To Us” and the more somber “Even When I’m At My Darkest” (featuring Dustin Kensrue of ‘Thrice’) shows us just how well they can move around with their sound.

This album is worth some Ear Time for sure!

For fans of: Thrice, As Cities Burn, My Epic, and Jesus Culture.

Favorite song on the album:  Even When I’m At My Darkest

My spirit woke with a hopeful plea
Each fighting breath resonating in me
You broke the chains to set me free
You gave me a song to lift my eyes and see …

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Gospel of Mark study

I just wanted to make a quick announcement about a project that’s been five years in the making.

I’m planning on doing a study on the Gospel of Mark that will be released on another page on this website.  It will be one that invites discussion and brings up questions that will hopefully point us to the character of Jesus and allow us to explore Him more fully.  Once again, this won’t be a monologue but a dialogue.  I want your participation in the discussion.  Your input provides a different perspective and an opportunity to clarify things (or perhaps muddy some things that seem clear) – that’s the beauty of looking deeper.

I know that I don’t have the answers to all of life’s questions, but the journey toward truth is best done together.

-Chris

Please leave a comment on what you think of this idea.

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Hope springs eternal

I spent most of my adolescence growing up in Detroit.  And in April, as the gray snow was still melting away and the smallest buds were emerging on the trees, we would wait expectantly for Opening Day in baseball.  The golden voice of the Tigers, Ernie Harwell, would always welcome us back to the start of America’s pastime by quoting Song of Solomon 2:11,12, ushering in warmer weather and the promise of watching our boyhood heroes take the field each day.  Hope springs eternal at the start of every season as each team began with the same perfect record.  It didn’t matter if the experts thought our team would end up in last place, because in April we all believed that anything could happen.

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In the film, Field of Dreams, Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) said, “Baseball has marked the time.”

It has … and it used to set the pace as well.

The rhythm of baseball throughout the summer was one constant as the days got longer and grew warmer.  Whether I was washing my dad’s car in the driveway or playing baseball in the street with my friends, the sounds of the game always seemed to be playing from a radio somewhere and it seemed to provide the perfect background for all things summer.  The sights, sounds, and smells of a baseball game all brought back rich memories of better times – times that were good.  For some of us now, as we watch the game, it’s as if we’ve dipped ourselves in magic waters.  “The memories so thick they have to brush them away from their faces”, as James Earl Jones so calmly reminds us.

Things have changed now.  Our culture is faster, less patient.  Baseball has been relegated in the hierarchy of American sport to something that’s boring, too slow with not enough action.  On ESPN it’s been reduced to highlight reels, dissected and analyzed by every statistic known to man.

It’s math … it’s no longer art.

It’s precision … it’s no longer beauty.

Math, precision and skill were always a part of the game but today there is no longer a balance.
Underneath all of today’s glitz, however, under the skepticism of the game’s attraction, the beauty, art and hope still remain.  Baseball continues to quietly mark time and set a cadence to the summer despite our best attempts to undermine it with our busyness.

Hope springs eternal in new beginnings.  Baseball reminds us of this every April as each Opening Day is filled with possibility and wonder.  Throughout the long season the end of one game, regardless of the outcome, fills us with anticipation of tomorrow’s game.  What surprises await?  Which of our heroes will rise to the occasion?  Will victory be snatched from the jaws of defeat in an exciting 12-inning thriller, or will the game get rained out?

Life is so much like this.

What inspires you as if “you’d been dipped in magic waters”?

What fuels you to new beginnings and what gives you hope for the future?
What part of your life has been reduced to lifeless statistic?
Is there still wonder?
Is there still mystery?
Is there still hope of a heroic rescue in your life, or fantastic beauty to rock your world?

Baseball may not be what it once was, but it still marks the time … it still carries the summer.

What does that for you?

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The STARBURST dilemma

StarburstOkay so, to get the ball rolling we have an easy problem to solve.  Some of you might have read the headline and thought, “hmmm, astrophysics or extra-galactic astronomy?”

No.

Confection.

What we want to determine is the age old question, “Which is the proper order of the original four flavors of Starburst candies in terms of taste?”   Please comment below with your order in terms of flavor (i.e. Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Strawberry).  If you’d like to leave a reason why you feel so strongly please do so.  We will not discourage opinions of any kind.

Thank you in advance for your help in this matter.  We look forward to tackling this question once and for all!

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Help take part in something special

scaffolding #2Have you ever created anything with your own hands?  Have you ever felt the satisfaction that what you have before you at the table took two hours to create in the kitchen?  Have you felt your own weight supported by a chair you built, feeling the polished wood that took hours to sand and stain to perfection?  Have you ever seen scaffolding go up around a house or an old building and wonder what it will look like when it’s done?

There’s something truly rewarding about being a part of something from the ground up.  What we’re trying to do here at chrisbarrett.org is let you, as an online community of friends and fellow pilgrims, to shape our conversation and direction.   Here’s what you can do:

1. ASK QUESTIONS

Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to know about God and how we relate to Him? Are there things in your life (experiences, memories, feelings, etc.) that bring passion and longing for something more?  Do you ever wonder why we work so hard and miss so much of life along the way?  What are we working toward?

2. JOIN THE DISCUSSION

It might not be your question, but you have a voice.  Use it!  Tell us what you think.  Help advance the dialogue and and (constructively) add to the discussion.  As I’ve said before, this is not a monologue.  You will hear my (and others) opinion on things, but the goal is to listen as well and keep pursuing truth.  This is a Christian community but other viewpoints will be welcomed.

3. TELL US WHAT INSPIRES YOU

Is it a book, a poem, a film, a photo, a passage of Scripture, a YouTube video.  I don’t mean “ho-hum how nice, that’s encouraging” kind of inspiration, but “HOLY COW THAT JUST KNOCKED ME OUT OF MY SHOES!!” kind of inspiration.  Send me your photos, leave comments here on just what has rocked your world and given you a shot in the arm recently.

4. SUGGEST SOMETHING

We’re just getting this ball rolling.  If there’s something we can offer on this site that can serve you, or you have any suggestions for us, please subscribe to this site and we’ll take any comments into consideration.

Please share this with anyone you think would be interested in being a part of this new project.

Thank you, and I look forward to your comments.

-Chris

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Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my new blog.  My name is Chris Barrett and my goal is to develop a community of people who want to explore some of the deeper questions of life.  If you are interested in joining me in these discussions, this blog is for you.

I plan to post at least once a week on Tuesdays and provide this community with some food for thought.  This isn’t meant to be a monologue of my ideas, but rather an ongoing dialogue between me and whoever intends to join in.

If you want to go deeper and explore the questions of, “who are we?”, “why we are here?”, and “what drives us to do what we do?” then feel free to chime in.  I look forward to discovering with you!

What are some questions you would like discuss about the deeper things in life?

-Chris Barrett

Follow me on Twitter: chris_barrett

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