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Mark 6 + 7

It is important t0 point out a few recurring themes in Mark’s gospel up to this point in the story:

Mark is constantly locating Jesus by a lake, in a boat, or on a lake. It seems that the lake is one of the safe places for Jesus to get away from the crowds of people. A place of silence and solitude.

The crowd is ever growing and continuously pressing against Jesus. I think noticing how he handles this is important to any leader or follower of Christ.

There is an increasing tension between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day.

Jesus is constantly telling the people who get healed to keep the event on the down low…none of them do.

The heart is a significant metaphor being used by Jesus to explain the kingdom of God and what a worshiper of God really look like.

Allow these observations to help you as you continue reading through the gospel of Mark.

I wanted to land on something I found interesting in Mark 6. Mark tells us that Jesus isn’t being accepted in his hometown. People are treating him without honor. Mark also tells us that Jesus was “unable to do miracles among them” because of their “unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6) Jesus even says, “he was amazed at their unbelief.”

Jesus does go ahead and heal a few sick people, but no miracles were done. I guess healing sick people is more like an everyday thing for Jesus. Apparently, miracles were different and required faith. I know this is getting sticky for some.

Someone might ask, “Daniel, are you saying ‘people don’t receive miracles because they lack faith?’” I am not really saying anything at this point. I am simply making an observation from the text. Actually, Jesus is saying that miracles didn’t happen in Nazareth because of their unbelief.

SOOO…what do we do with do that?

I absolutely think that there is an argument to be made that there are times when miracles don’t happen because of lack of faith. This isn’t the first time this happens in the Bible. It even happened to the Disciples when they tried to cast out a demon from a little boy and Jesus tells them they were unable to do it because they lacked faith. Do we then extrapolate that every miracle that doesn’t happen is somehow our fault?

Lord, I hope not. If miracles only depended on you and me, the world would be in BIG trouble.

However, I do think there is something to be said for the relationship between miracles happening and faith. We are told to have faith in our God, who is able to do miracles. He tells us to pray for healing and for our world. If there was no point, then why would he tell us to do it? There is a point to putting our faith in a God who can do miracles.

I believe that miracles happen when followers of Jesus pray in-line with God’s heart and God determines that the situation being prayed about is going to draw people to worship Him.

A little explanation is necessary. Miracles are intended by God to bring Him glory and worship. They are designed to draw people to the overwhelming power of God and cause them to repent, to worship, and surrender, to pray, to focus themselves again on their all-powerful, healing, and loving God.

BELIEVING FOR A MIRACLE

1). BELIEVE

We are called to believe and put our faith in a God, who can and does do miracles. I feel as if too often we doubt God can do anything. I know we say all the right things and pray all the right prayers, but do we really believe that God can do something about the impossible situation we are facing. Do YOU really believe? REALLY?

2). TRUST   

You aren’t God. I know this comes as a shock to many of us, but it is true. All we can do is pray. We can’t determine the outcome. God is still in control and still on the throne. He invites us into the story, but ultimately he is the one who decided. (I realize this gets into did God do this to me, or why didn’t God answer by prayers–all are great questions; however, I can’t deal with them here. Perhaps you can check out my message series called “Life’s Toughest Questions” for some insight into these difficult questions). We must trust Him even when we don’t understand Him. We must trust that he knows best, even though that is extremely hard to do. Trust is essential to faith and vice versa.

Lastly, never apologize for asking God for a miracle. He is gracious and loving and hears our prayers. Where do you need a miracle today? Pray and believe in faith for this to happen. I’ll believe with you.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I need a miracle today! I need You to show up in this situation. I need You to show up in this relationship. I need You to show up at my job. I need You to show up [insert need]. I put my faith and trust in You. I submit my desires to You, so that they are in-line with Your desires. I relax and trust in You. When I doubt, Lord, draw me close to see Your heart for me. Help me to see it how You see it. Give me faith. I believe for a miracle today! In Christ strong name. Amen!

-Pastor Daniel

The Big News Revealed!

This past weekend we made a very important announcement: We’re moving!

Rockwood Summit has decided not to renew our contract and so we are currently looking for a new place to call home. We are working diligently to find a new space and I believe God is able.

I wanted to express my deep appreciation to Rockwood Summit High School. It was a great gift to be able to meet in the school.

When we arrived at Rockwood, we were a few months old as a church. We hadn’t even officially launched the church yet.

One of the reasons we were looking for new space at the time was that we had outgrown our other space. Rockwood gave us an opportunity to establish our church in the community in a very recognizable place and allowed us the space to grow as a church.

We have tripled in size since we first came to Rockwood. I am so grateful for the time we had there. I pray continued blessings, safety, and prosperity on this great school.

It’s time to move on. It’s time to write a new chapter in the story of Elevation. It’s time to take our next step of faith.

I believe this is an important step. Each time we have moved we have grown as a church. I am believing for exponential growth.

Will you believe with me? Will you pray and work to make this next move our best move yet?

God is able, so let’s get to work!

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

Paying Attention

The other day, I got the sense that God was saying, “You’re not paying attention to what I’ve been telling you.”

So I took an hour or so, got a nice, warm cup of coffee, opened up my journal, and started looking back at everything I had written for the past seven months.

And I realized…God has been saying A LOT to me.
And I wasn’t paying attention.

I actually wonder if, on a regular basis, God is saying way more than we take the time to hear.

The phrase “pay attention” is interesting, because when we “pay” for something, it implies a cost—a price. It means we choose to focus our attention on THIS, rather than give our attention to THAT.

However, in every part of our lives, there are things competing for our attention.

Demands at work. Time with the family. Friends. Entertainment.

Looking through the scriptures, the phrase “pay attention” occurs a lot:

“Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given” (Mark 4: 23-24)

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1)

“But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.” (Jeremiah 7:24)

Are you paying attention?
Are you listening?

What conversation is the Lord trying to have with you?

Because that’s prayer at it’s best: a conversation between you and God. You sharing your heart with him, and then being quiet and listening to what he wants to say to you.

And I’ve found that this conversation doesn’t have to be relegated to before meals or bedtime. It’s on-going. Walking and talking with God throughout each day. Allowing the dialogue to continue through music, film, books, events that take place at work, moments in silence, time out in creation.

God wants to hear what’s on your mind. Even though he already knows.

He wants to talk with you. Chances are, he’s trying to right now.

Are you paying attention?

Get To The Point

God is listening.

Skip the blabbering, get to the point, and get quiet.

Spare the pleasantries and fluff.

God knows your heart, so speak from it.

Find a place alone…closed room, car, shower, running trail, abandoned factory, WHATEVER…listen, speak, and listen some more.

The time or place doesn’t matter…the company does.

-Nate

Approach the King

Growing up I remember praying every night before bed. It was always the same prayer. The Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Thyne is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.”

Then I would always tag on:

“And God bless mommy and daddy; Jennifer and Kevin, Grandma and Grandpa Miller; Grandma Schenkelberg; all our aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews, brothers and sisters, and everyone else we love; amen. Oh, and God bless Chelsea (she was our cat).”

It was quite the prayer.

But the first part, that’s what Pastor Daniel was talking about in his message. That’s the way Jesus taught us to pray.

At some point I stopped praying that prayer. Maybe in college. For no particular reason. But I do think it provided structure. And it’s words are so powerful.

We would also pray before every meal:

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let Thy gifts to us be blessed, amen.”

But over the last four or five years, I’ve seen this change, or this development in our prayer life as a family, and in my own prayer life. Before meals our prayers have become more sincere, with gratitude for what the Lord is doing. They have become words from our hearts, not just repeated phrases.

I pray a lot in my car. Out loud. Maybe specific things that are going on. Maybe just prayer for that day to bring honor to His name and His Kingdom. Maybe for healing. Maybe because I’m so thankful that He gave me breath. Whatever it is, I have found that to be a great time to lift up what’s going on in my life and thank the Lord for it.

But, sometimes I get into these ruts where I fall asleep during my prayer at night. I’ll be laying in bed, exhausted from the day, and it sounds something like:

“Lord God, thank you, for this dsfjksdajflsdjf…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….”

Really honoring, huh?

If that’s you, try sitting up. Or kneeling by your bed. I mean, this is the King of Glory, doesn’t He deserve honor? How would you approach a King? With laziness?

Of course not.

I think that’s what I constantly tell myself when I’m slipping, or question what my prayer life looks like. “How would I approach a King?”

He’s your Heavenly Father, your First Love; so bring Him honor in that.

I love how Pastor Daniel talked about bringing your heart, not just empty words to the Lord. God knows what’s going on; He just wants to talk about it and have you listen.

Bring a genuine heart and you can’t have a ‘bad prayer.’

Prayer is for anytime, anywhere. Not just before meals and bed.

Prayer is so powerful. Live in that. Know that God absolutely answers. It may not be what you think the answer should be, but He always answers.

Have faith that prayer does things. It changes people. It heals. It renews.

-Jen

The Value Of A Place To Pray

en·vi·ron·ment 
noun
1. the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences; surroundings
2. the external factors surrounding and affecting a given organism at any time.
3. the social and cultural forces that shape the life of a person or a population.

As you can see your environment is something that can shape you.

Finding a physical place of prayer is important. I recently came across this article and wanted to share it with you all.

The article is written by Chris Brauns. Chris is a Pastor and the author of “Unpacking Forgiveness” and “When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search”.
Enjoy and I pray you are blessed by it, like I was:

“In my study at church, I have a window where I kneel to pray. The window is about 2 feet off the floor, so as I kneel I am looking out at our community.

I don’t have a real sophisticated system for prayer reminders. I put up post-its, tape emails to the sill, and write notes or make check marks.

I suppose I could just keep track of prayer requests on my computer. I do at times. But there is value in identifying a physical place to pray.

  • My attitude changes when I drop to my knees. I was studying Daniel recently for a sermon. It struck me how earnestly Daniel prayed. I left my books and dropped to my knees to pray for the flock. The physical movement was helpful in softening my heart.
  • It paints a picture to share with others. It’s one thing to say to a friend, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ It’s another to say, ‘I got down on my knees at my window and prayed.’ There is a place, of course, for secret prayers. But there are times when people need to know exactly where we are praying for them and it encourages them we really are praying if we can be concrete.
  • It keeps me away from the distraction of my computer. I have to admit that there are times when I forget to mute my computer and get distracted. But most of the time, I can find quiet moments without any electronic distractions. I just need to do it more.
  • It reminds me to look out on a place I love. Flannery O’Connor famously said, ‘Somewhere is better than anywhere,‘ and when I kneel, and glance at the window in the process of doing so, I am reminded again of our place.
  • It reminds me to thank God for answered prayer. The reason that some of the post-its are covered in the above picture is that the request has been answered. I will eventually take them down, but for now, it is good to see prayer requests covered up.
  • It is often as I kneel to pray that the Holy Spirit brings truth into crystal clear focus. I can think of so many occasions when I was preparing to preach a funeral, or so very concerned for someone in our church, that I got down on my knees to pray and the Spirit brought to mind the right truth to share in the right way. It’s not a matter of special revelation, but rather of the gentle promptings of the Spirit. Let’s get down on our knees and pray more often, ‘Open my eyes so I may behold wonderful things in your Word.

-Pastor Tim

 

Prayer Closet

It might seem like a weird thing to do, but Jesus still tells us to do it.  He tells us to go into our prayer closet and shut the door.

Now if we don’t have a literal prayer closet in our home, it doesn’t mean we are living in disobedience. However, if we aren’t regularly practicing our prayer life in places of seclusion, then we are definitely not LISTENING to the Lord and following His example.

Most of us don’t have rooms in our homes, let alone closets, that can be converted into prayer rooms.  Most of our homes are packed with people and stuff (this is a whole other sermon about how much stuff do we really need, but I digress), so the possibility of finding and transforming a closet or room into a prayer closet just isn’t real good.

Here is the question: Where can we find solitude for prayer? Jesus simply tells us to get away, get alone, and don’t babble (Matthew 6: 5-7). He also says that we should pray as if we believe that God is all knowing. In other words, believe that God’s know what we need before we even ask. That really seems to take the pressure off, huh?

Here’s a question:
Where can you go to get away?

I know many people that use their cars and their commutes to communicate with God. I have found that the car is one of the best places for me right now in my life. I don’t turn the radio on and I simply speak to the Lord and listen to what He has to say to me.

Where is it for you?

Jesus wasn’t just saying stuff to say stuff. He was serious when he told the disciples to get away, go into your prayer closet, close the door behind you, and pray expectantly. The very fact that Jesus said it makes it worth our consideration.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Use a specific room for prayer in your house. Make is comfortable and designate it as your prayer room or even prayer corner in your office.

2. Use your car as a place to communicate with God. Turn the radio off and talk with the Lord.

3. Practice regular silence and listening. I suggest daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Could you take 5 mintues a day, 30 mintues a week, 1 hour a month, and 1 day a year? Plan it now or it won’t be a priority. Put it on the calendar.

4. Use the Lord’s Prayer as your model for praying. Memorize it if you haven’t already. Repeat it throughout the day.

5. Practice prayer-walking with the Lord’s Prayer. Walk through you neighborhood praying for the Kingdom to Come, and the Lord’s will to be done in your neighborhood. Prayer-walking is a very powerful exercise.

6. Write it down. When the Lord is speaking you should write it down. Go and buy a cheap notebook that you keep with your Bible and use it to write down the activity of the Lord.

I pray that you find this helpful. Blessings!

Pastor Daniel

All Day Long

Romans 10:21 But regarding Israel, God said,
“All day long I opened my arms to them,
but they were disobedient and rebellious.”

“All day long”…

God has been revealing himself to Israel over and over again.
He has welcomed them into his loving arms “all day long”.

What was their response?
They were “disobedient and rebellious.”
They didn’t listen.
They didn’t respond properly.
They rejected the LORD’s invitation.
…They said, “NO!”

In the same way, God is welcoming us in his arms of grace.
So, what will be your response today?
Will you respond by turning towards God and receiving his embrace?
Or will you turn away from God and continue trying to do it on your own?

God is standing with his arms open wide and very clearly telling you and me that we don’t have to do it alone.

Whatever your situation looks like today…turn towards God, run into his loving arms, and feel his warm embrace.

He loves you and wants the best for you. You are not alone.

You don’t have to live another day without Him.
You don’t have to live without his guidance and peace.
Don’t just stand there, RUN to him.

How do you do that?

It’s simple.

Get on your knees, right now, and simply pray:

Dear God,

I need you in my life and in this situation. I can’t, but I know you can. I am running towards you today will you, please, embrace me in your arms. Forgive me for the times that I have been disobedient and rebellious. I turn from that way of living and ask for your power to live differently. I need you. Please, receive my prayer as a fragrant offering and change me from the inside out. Be LORD over my life, my circumstance, and my future. In the strong name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

-Daniel

Have You Settled the Issue?

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our LORD has done for us.” –Romans 5:1

So, have you “been made right” with God?

That may seem like an odd question, but seriously. Have you settled this issue with God?

It’s not a matter of whether you are a good person or not. The Bible clearly states that not one of us is good. We are all in the same boat.

This is all about relationship.

We are separated from God because of our sin and THIS ISSUE must be addressed.

So, I’ll ask again…have you “been made right in God’s sight?” This is such an important question. So many people believe that if they are good people and they go to church that they have been made right with God.

But that’s so WRONG.

Romans tells us that we are made right “by faith” because of what Christ has done for us.
We have peace with God because of Jesus not because of us.

Now that you know that; have you “been made right” with God?

If you are uncertain today about your relationship or standing before God, then settle the issue. Put your faith in Jesus. He died for your sin, so that you might have life again and be free from sin and death.

If you want to say, “yes” to Jesus today simply pray this prayer:

God…I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Will you forgive me and come and live in my heart so that I can be free from sin and death. I love you and trust you with my life. Use me how ever you want for your glory. In Jesus name, Amen!

If you prayed that prayer, the next step is telling someone and getting into a bible believing church. I would love to hear from you, so send me an email at dtaylor@elevationstl.com.

If Elevation Church can be a help to you please let us know, and if you live in the area please join us for worship. You can find worship times on our website at www.elevationstl.com

Going Higher!

Daniel

Transparent

“They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
–Mark 14:32-34


There is so much going on in this passage of scripture. It is an extremely powerful scene in the life of Jesus; one of the only places in scripture where we get really “up close and personal” with his humanity.

His humanity is up front and center, which could make many of us feel uncomfortable.

You see, we are very comfortable with the divinity of Jesus, but a lot less comfortable with the humanity of Jesus. Which are you?

Both are real. Both are important.

For us to fully understanding Jesus, we have to grasp both aspects. 


There is a lot that could be focused on in this passage, but I want to look specifically at Jesus’ wisdom in his vulnerability, honesty, and transparency.

We are told, in the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus went to the olive grove and told the majority of his disciples to sit and pray. He decided to take Peter, James, and John a little further. It is at this point that Jesus reveals himself.

He tells them he is greatly distressed and troubled.
He is in agony.
His soul is crushed and grief is closing in on him like a tsunami.

Notice how Jesus doesn’t reveal this to everyone. 
 


Here is the point: As human beings it is vital to have places where we can be completely vulnerable, honest, and transparent—but it must be with the right people in the right environments.

In order for those things to become clear you must seek wisdom from God.

A FOOL is vulnerable, honest, and transparent with everyone, but a WISE person is selective (like Jesus was with Peter, James, and John) with whom they share their heart.

It’s okay to not share with everyone.

There is this fallacy that says, “if you aren’t transparent with everyone, then you are lying and that is wrong.”

Don’t worry about what others say.

Follow the example Jesus laid out for us and I am confident that you will be more than all right! 


-Daniel

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