Thursday, 30 August 2012

Desert places in Mark's Gospel

It has been a lovely little study to look at desert places in Mark's Gospel, and I've been enjoying some simple thoughts from these 3 passages.

"he was without in desert places" (Mk 1:14)

Many times we see the Lord alone in the wilderness. We also read that he went to the solitary place to pray, he was found alone on the land, he would often rise a great while before day and that he went apart in the mountain to pray. This in contrast to the many times we see the Saviour in the midst of the multitudes.

The Lord was often alone, but I don't believe our Saviour was ever lonely for He always had fellowship with the Father, and the Father was ever with Him; "I and my Father are one". The Lord Jesus ever walked in step with Him and nothing broke their communion. Even on the cross he was forsaken by God but importantly not by His Father!

When he was "without in desert places" this was time exclusively for fellowship and communion with the Father, and is it any wonder that there should be the case when you consider that they are one and the same! Christ is God manifest in flesh - "who being in the form of God (being essentially one with God and possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God, God)" (Phil 2:6, Amplified version)

"come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while" (Mk 6:31)

Within the context of this verse, the disciples had been sent out to minister to the locality, many mighty deeds had been done in His name and the gospel had been preached!

Yet at this point the Lord invites the disciples to come apart into a desert place to rest awhile. It is lovely to see the Saviour's care for His people, and He teaches us here that balance is important and that rest, recuperation and fellowship with the Lord and each other would be just as important for His people as activity and service.

It is lovely to see the intimacy of the invitation; "come ye yourselves..." not now the blessing on the crowds and the multitudes, but this was going to be quality time alone with the Lord. They would be with Him for fellowship and communion, away from the world and it's distractions! We also do well to draw aside to the 'desert place' away from the world, for there we can rest and recover with the Lord and enjoy his presence and fellowship. Surely if more time were spent in this manner then surely there would be such a positive impact on our spiritual lives.

[caption id="attachment_239" align="alignright" width="300"]A picture of the Judaean Desert A picture of the Judaean Desert[/caption]

"This is a desert place, and the time is far passed" (Mk 6:35)

The disciples' above observation was simply reflecting their physical surroundings and environment and also the time of day. However we can make application here - as the follower of the Lord Jesus looks about surely we would share the observation of the disciples?

A desert place - surely we realise as we look around at the world that there is no spiritual sustenance for our souls here. A desert can sustain life of course, but these creatures are made for the desert and bear the character of the desert! But this is not for the believer. We are in the world but not of the world and we are exhorted to love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

The time is far passed - surely we would recognise that the return of the Lord to the air cannot be far away and that we are indeed in 'the third watch of the night'. The time is short, there is no further prophecy to be fulfilled and the Lord must come soon! The words of the Lord Jesus are pertinent; "surely I come quickly"

The challenge to our hearts must be to redeem the time. This phrase is used in Ephesians 5 in relation to our Christian walk for ourselves - to maximise our spiritual gain in our days down here. The phrase is also used in Colossians 4 where it is used in relation to our walk outwardly towards others - to seize opportunities to bring spiritual benefit and blessing to others whilst we live for Him in these last times.

We trust these simple thoughts concerning desert places will be useful and encouraging to all who read.

Yours in Christ, Mark

Monday, 27 August 2012

Fellowship - not just a cup of coffee and a biscuit!

I've been enjoying a few mentions of fellowship in the New Testament and I don't intend to add too much comment other than to say that this subject is huge! Sometimes our understanding of true Christian fellowship can be far too simplistic and really isn't what God means when he talks about 'fellowship' in His Word. Here are some references to provoke further thought and consideration:

"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:3)

Number one fellowship - with God our Father and His Son! What a tremendous privilege and calling is ours! Surely this fellowship should mark our character and walk, both before God and before the world.

"...if any fellowship of the Spirit..." (Phil 2:1)

Something we share with all true believers - we enjoy the company of and participation in the Holy Spirit! Remember the Spirit is known as the Comforter, the Paraclete one who 'draws alongside'... what a comfort is ours to know we have a present aide who travels with all believers.

"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 Jn 1:7)

Here is a reminder of the practical implications of fellowship with each other, it is conditional on our day-to-day living. An alternative rendering says: "but if we really are living and walking in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have true, unbroken fellowship with one another". What a challenge this is, to know that fellowship isn't just about attending dinners and suppers but should have a bearing and impact upon our daily walk!

"...your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (Phil 1:5)

The Amplified version has a helpful alternative rendering: "I thank my God for your fellowship (your sympathetic co-operation and contribution and partnership) in advancing the good news (the Gospel) from the first day you heard it, until now". This really challenges us in relation to our zeal and energy in our evangelical outreach, this is something we can have fellowship in!

"...the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (2 Cor 8:4)

We can have fellowship in helping each other, and meeting need where we can see it. This may be financial, but also may be in many other practical ways. The Amplified reads "the ministration for the relief and support of the saints". Truly fellowship is a noble, humbling and practical thing indeed!

"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (Phil 3:10)

I have no real comments on this lovely but incredibly deep and challenging verse, but I did particularly enjoy the thoughts that are brought out by the Amplified rendering: "For my determined purpose is that I may know Him (that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognising and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly), and that I may in that same way come to know the power out-flowing from His resurrection (which it exerts over believers) and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed (in Spirit into His likeness even) to His death."

May the Lord help us understand the wonder of fellowship for the Christian, and the many different facets and meanings it brings.

Yours in Christ, Mark


1 Kings 19: Elijah and God

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