February 25, 2010

Gospel of Mark: Chapter 1

I am co-teaching a class through the Gospel of Mark with another pastor (Rodney Frieden) on staff with me at Castleton UMC over the next 5 weeks. We are taking turns teaching through Mark with me kicking things off last night with chapter 1. Here is a summary of my notes and thoughts from last night...

Chapter 1
Vs 1 - Mark's gospel message conveys that Jesus is not solely the Jewish Messiah but that he is also the strong Son of God who is able to deliver us from the bondage of sin and claim victory over death.

Vs 2-3 - It was not uncommon to hear of kings who would send slaves/workers ahead of their chariots to smooth out the rough places to make it easier for them to pass through. John the Baptist serves this same sort of purpose for the ministry of Jesus, who is the King of kings.

Vs 6 - "camel's hair" could be camel skin or a fabric woven of camel's hair, which is more likely because it was much cheaper. 2 Kings 1:8 shows that Elijah's garments fit a similar description to that of John's.

Vs 7 - The word "powerful" or "mightier" was typically used for great supernatural beings (cf Rev. 10:1; 18:8, 21).

Vs 10 - Mark uses "immediately" 41x in his gospel, not always to note some sort of speedy action but to help us understand the sequence of events and how they unfolded. In regards to Jesus' baptism, I've often wondered if everyone else heard the "voice" and saw the "dove" and am thinking that they didn't. The reason I say this is based on John the Baptist, the one who would have heard or seen anything if there was something to see, does not know if Jesus is the Messiah a while after his baptism (Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23).

Vs 11 - Paul had a similar experience on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Vs 15 - "repentance" is not a major theme of Mark's gospel as he targeted a primarily Gentile audience, rather he focuses on salvation through Christ as God's rescuing act redeeming lost and helpless mankind from slavery to sin. Remember, Mark highlights Jesus' strength as the strong Son of God.

Vs 16-20 - Mark is emphasizing the quickness of their responses.

Vs 22 - "authority" literally means in the Greek "out from himself" which would mean that Jesus' authority came from himself because he IS authority. He Is the expert.

Vs 30 - Being a disciple of Jesus does not mean you ignore your normal, day to day life. We know that Simon Peter had a wife and he still followed Jesus, as well as many others (1 Cor. 9:5). Our discipleship is lived out in our normal lives, in our roles as spouses, bosses, parents, children, neighbors, employees, teachers, students, etc. To disconnect discipleship from your everyday life is to fail as a disciple.

Vs 40 - Mark wanted to emphasize who Jesus was and what he did, he doesn't spend as much time emphasizing his teachings. Jesus had the power and authority to heal and Mark makes that clear from the very beginning. The Gospel of Matthew spends considerably more time on Jesus' teachings than does Mark. This does not mean Mark didn't value his teachings but rather goes about his gospel in a different, more condensed way.

*If you have any questions, thoughts or comments please feel free to share by making a comment below.

February 24, 2010

"Hear No Evil" Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the FREE copy of Matthew Paul Turner's "Hear No Evil" is Mr. Louder. If you are Mr. Louder, please leave your email so I can get your mailing info to get your copy mailed out to you. If I don't hear from Mr. Louder by the end of this week, a new winner will be drawn. Mr. Louder, talk to me!

February 23, 2010

Thoughts for Lent Part 1

My hope is that this can become a place for you to find Scripture passages to study, prayers to read and thoughts to think about during this season of Lent. If, along the way, you have questions or comments you want to share about something in particular or a thought in general, please feel free to share.

Almighty God, by the power of your Holy Spirit open our eyes, ears, hearts, and very lips to your presence so that today we may worship and serve you in faithfulness, be blessing and healing reminders of your love to all whose lives we touch. We offer our prayers in the name of Christ. Amen.

-Matthew 3:11-4:11 (In what ways are you preparing your heart to experience God through Lent? Each day?)
-John 13:1-17 (What does Jesus' example of service mean for you?)
-2 Peter 1:1-11 (Which things are you adding to your faith? Which things do you need to add? How do you plan on making that happen?)
-Luke 10:1-12 (Are you living out your faith with a sense of urgency?)


We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer. Our demon says: "We are too busy to pray; we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, to many wounds to heal. Prayer is a luxury, something to do during a free hour, a day away from work or on a retreat." But to think this way is harmful. Service and prayer can never be separated.

~From The Living Reminder by Henri J. M. Nouwen

It must be realized that the true sign of spiritual endeavor and the price of success in it is suffering. One who proceeds without suffering will bear no fruit. Pain of the heart and physical striving bring to light the gift of the Holy Spirit, bestowed in holy baptism upon every believer, buried in passions through our negligence in fulfilling the commandments, and brought once more to life by repentance, through the ineffable mercy of God. Do not, because of the suffering that accompanies them, cease to make painstaking efforts, lest you be condemned for fruitlessness and hear the words, 'Take the talent from him' (Matthew xxv. 28).

~Theophan the Recluse
Other Resources
-"2 Stories": A daily devotional from Asbury Theological Seminary

February 19, 2010

"Hear No Evil"

I have to admit I was pretty excited when I was given the opportunity to be part of the Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner (@JesusNeedsNewPR) blog tour this week. There is something about getting a book to review in the mail, especially a book like this, before it hits store shelves that makes me feel cool. I don't really think I'm that cool but I thought the book was.

I am at a point in my life where I have to read a lot and rarely do I get to pick what I'm reading. Hear No Evil was different. MPT writes in a way that is not only easy to read but so conversational and engaging that it is exactly how I would imagine a conversation would be with him while sitting at one of those hip Nashville joints he writes about. He shares openly and honestly about growing up looking at the world through a fundamental Baptist lens and how music helped him see a broader view.

There were times when he had me laughing out loud at things like his plan to become "God's Michael Jackson" (60) or his references to the classic CCM artists I grew up listening to myself like: Michael W Smith, Sandi Patty, and Petra. And then there were times when MPT would drop bits of insight that left me thinking and thoroughly challenged:

"people talking about how to create something "real" and "authentic" rather than just being real and authentic" (11).

"A person's first steps into grace are usually unsettling, more like walking into a minefield than a meadow" (72).

"Because of Jesus, I wanted to love people, which meant I didn't want to engage in relationships with an agenda" (214).

If you're looking for a great book that describes a journey of faith, grace, and music while making you laugh on one page and cause you to stop and think on the next, Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner is right up your alley. Get a copy and check it out for yourself.

The publisher gave me 1 copy to give away for FREE. A couple ways to enter...
-comment on this post listing the first CD you ever owned (be honest)
-follow me on Twitter & share the link to this post (include @mattlipan in your tweet so I know who to count it for)
-write a blog about it & include the link
*please leave some way I can contact you if you win

You can also purchase a copy from Random House here.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

February 17, 2010

The Lenten Journey

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, a journey of preparation that takes us to the foot of the cross and ends with an empty tomb. As a Christian, Lent is a time to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). It provides an opportunity for Christians to find specific ways to refocus on their relationship with Christ through different spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service and study. So often Lent is approached as a time of "giving up" something (chocolate, caffeine, the internet, sweets, etc.) but it must not stop there. The point of abstaining from something is to replace it with something else that draws one closer to God. I've heard it said that fasting without prayer (or one of the spiritual disciplines) is simply dieting. The purpose of Lent is to have more God, not less.

Now, if you are not a Christian, Lent might be a time of exploration and questioning as it ends with one of, if not the most significant Christian event in the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. If there is ever a time of year to look a little deeper into what it means to be a Christian, Lent is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, if one approaches it with an openness and willingness, the Lenten journey will not disappoint.

Pardon the Interruption

No, not the show on ESPN with Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon, though I do like it. I was actually thinking more along the lines of what God might be saying to me lately.

What would happen if God interrupted by schedule by wanting to spend some time with me? Honestly, I'm bummed because my first thoughts were about the appointments or meetings I might miss, the time I could be using to prep for a worship service or a Bible study I might be teaching. There are times when it really does seem like an interruption to me and I can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, my priorities might get a little out of whack when that happens.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and how he was willing to take time out of his schedule to attend to the needs of another. Was it an interruption in the guy's plans for the day, absolutely! Was the man willing to set some other things aside because he knew it was the right thing to do, absolutely!

It is clear that God is asking me if I am willing to pardon His interruption in my day and well, the more I think about it, the more it seems like any "interruption" God wants to throw my way is the very thing I should be spending time on anyways. Maybe what seems like an interruption to me becomes, in reality, a chance to refocus and be reminded that my time and my schedule are really God's to begin with.

February 15, 2010

What's Cooking?

I was reading through the Gospel of Matthew the other day and something jumped out at me as I was reading about Jesus feeding the 5,000 (14:13-21). I have read this story countless times and for whatever reason Jesus' words in verse 16 hit me, "Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat [emphasis mine]."

Jesus is telling you and I to give people something worth sticking around for and I LOVE IT! What might be even more powerful is that because of what the Holy Spirit has done and continues to do in and through you and me, we actually have something worth sharing.

One of the questions then becomes what are we giving people to "eat"? Is the way we treat people providing for their spiritual nourishment? Are the words we use giving people a "taste" of Christ? Do our attitudes show that we have sustenance that comes from somewhere other than how much we make, the size of our house, what kind of car we drive or the degree mounted on the wall?

The other question to ask ourselves is what types of things are we "feeding" on? In what ways are you and I feeding our souls? Do we seek True nourishment or are we getting sick on the "junk food" of our culture?

Jesus says to give them something to eat....so it seems only appropriate to ask, what's cooking?

February 8, 2010

Dinner Guests

It is probably the combination of my 'Sacramental Theology' class at Asbury Theological Seminary taught by Dr. Stamps (@bobstamps) a few weeks ago, my final paper on the 'Openness of the Table' and having celebrated the sacrament of Communion this past Sunday that got me thinking. But before I jump in, I have to mention that 1) I would be incredibly surprised if this thought hasn't already been shared somewhere (I know John Wesley talked about the power of the Eucharist to transform people) and 2) I have not spent a lot of time studying this particular idea (yet). So, having said all of that, here we go...

Each Gospel has an account of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, John 13:18-30) and in each account Jesus mentions that the one who would betray him was dining at the table with him. I think this is significant for us today. In Jewish culture, the community and fellowship that took place around a meal was quite significant and the fact that this was a Passover Meal that Jesus and his disciples were sharing took it to an even deeper level of intimacy. This also happens to be the meal we model the sacrament of Communion after, as Paul mentions in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Now, not only did Jesus know that Judas Iscariot was going to betray him, I think he knew he already had and Jesus still welcomed him to the table! Notice in John's account (John 13:18-30) that Jesus doesn't tell Judas Iscariot to leave before the breaking of the bread but rather Judas Iscariot leaves after he received it, on his own accord. It seems as though Jesus is demonstrating an open invitation to the table of the Last Supper, even for those who would betray and deny him, that could be a powerful reminder for our Communion celebrations today.

February 6, 2010

Clipping the Religious Wings

There are a number of different political groups or labels we hear about in the news as the presidential primaries keep rolling on and if I may, I'd like to share some thoughts surrounding two of the more popular labels that are used to describe the Left Wing and Right Wing as they relate to faith and religion.

The "Evangelical" "Right"
evangelical: "1: of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels 2: Protestant 3: emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual 4 a capitalized : of or relating to the Evangelical Church in Germany b often capitalized : of, adhering to, or marked by fundamentalism 5: marked by militant or crusading zeal". (definition from Merriam-Webster online)

Right or Right Wing:
"7 often capitalized a: the part of a legislative chamber located to the right of the presiding officer b: the members of a continental European legislative body occupying the right as a result of holding more conservative political views than other members 8 a often capitalized : individuals professing support of the established order and favoring traditional attitudes and practices and conservative governmental policies b often capitalized : a conservative position". (definition from Merriam-Webster online)

Looking at definitions 1, 2, and 3 I see myself as being described as evangelical but what is scary is how often this group of people can seem rather fundamentalist and I'm not sure I want that guilt by association. In our country, the Right is associated with the Republican party as it is known as the more conservative of the two major political parties but does the label "evangelical right" mean that there aren't or can't be evangelical democrats? Is it a conflict of interests to be a conservative Christian but not a Republican?

The "Religious" "Left"
1: relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity 2: of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances 3 a: scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b: fervent , zealous". (definition from Merriam-Webster online)

Left or Left Wing:
3 often capitalized a: the part of a legislative chamber located to the left of the presiding officer b: the members of a continental European legislative body occupying the left as a result of holding more radical political views than other members 4 often capitalized a: those professing views usually characterized by desire to reform or overthrow the established order especially in politics and usually advocating change in the name of the greater freedom or well-being of the common man b: a radical as distinguished from a conservative position". (definition from Merriam-Webster online)

I can see myself as being described as religious though I would like to think I have some zeal about my faith I certainly wouldn't call myself, good or bad, a zealot. The Left Wing is considered to be the "wing" of the Democratic party and would be considered liberal compared to the Right. The Religious Left focuses on social issues that concern the poor and oppressed, which as I understand the Gospel, should be the concern of Christians regardless of which "wing" we use to fly our politics with. Does this mean that the "Evangelical Right" doesn't care about the poor or oppressed or social issues that may impact both or either? Is there a difference between being "evangelical" and being "religious"? Are evangelicals not considered religious or vice versa?

I think these are important questions to ask and think about before we claim to favor one "wing" over the other or even worse, claim that the "other wing" has it all wrong, stands for nothing good and shouldn't even consider themselves Christians. Maybe that's why there is so much imbalance in the Church, because we find ourselves trying to fly with only one "wing" and can't figure out why we keep going in circles.

February 3, 2010

Out From Amongst The Tombs

I was reading through Mark's account of Jesus' ministry around the Sea of Galilee (3:7-6:29) for our church's Lenten Devotional and the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man in 5:1-20 really struck me in a couple of different ways as I think about the Church in general, and the United Methodist Church specifically.

1. Jesus intentionally went to the place where the unchurched and de-churched (the word "Gentiles" is used here) resided. He was willing to go where few others were willing to go, places that "traditional church-people" might call unclean. We talk about being willing to serve the least and the lost but are we? Are we willing to adapt and change our approaches to ministry in order to engage the unchurched and de-churched?

2. When you spend time around death and decay, their stench begins to stick to you. Here we see a man who was cast out by his society and left to live among the dead. This could really mess with a person's head and I would imagine easily create a sense of worry, fear and despair. Is it possible that the Church has lived among the dead long enough and now it's time to come out from amongst the tombs? I wonder what difference it could make if we stopped looking at all the ways we are dying and focused instead on new ways to convey the message of Life.

3. Having an experience with Jesus changes people. After his experience with Jesus, this man would never be the same. Not only had Jesus brought him from death to life but Jesus gave him life with purpose. Notice how the man went into the "Ten Cities" telling others about his life changing experience with Jesus. I know and agree that the Church must move and adapt with culture but not at the expense of experiencing the One who makes life transformation possible. 'Jesus' seems like a decent marketing plan to me. Eventually it goes viral because as people see their lives changed, they can't help but tell others about their experience with Him.

February 1, 2010

"Careful What You Ask For"

Here is the outline from the sermon I gave at our Castleton campus this past Sunday (1/31/10).


“Careful What You Ask For”
a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer
Matthew 6:5-15
(parallel Luke 11:2-4)

A Few Initial Thoughts...
-Prayer is not a question of “if”, but “when”. Notice that Jesus says “whenever you pray." Prayer is a spiritual discipline that is meant to be practiced daily.

-Prayer is a conversation of the heart, which means that our motives matter. Jesus tells us that if we ask, we'll receive, well sometimes that makes us think God is some sort of divine genie waiting to grant our every wish. John clearly states this is NOT the case in 1 John 3:21-22 and again in 1 John 5:14-15.

-Notice these main themes as we walk through the Lord's Prayer: trust, forgiveness, persistence and community

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
-take note that it says “Our” Father, not “mine”. God is the Father of all, including our Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Pentecostal Christian brothers and sisters.

-the Aramaic word Jesus used was abba which is like saying “daddy”. This demonstrates an intimate relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father, which flows over into our relationship w/God through Christ.

-“hallowed” or “holy” in Hebrew means “other" or "separate". I like to think of God as wholly holy, what I mean by this is that God in His infinite power and glory is completely separate from us which highlights the significance and importance of the Incarnation. God, who is entirely other, made Himself like us by sending His Son in flesh and blood.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
-this highlights the already-but-not-yet tension of God’s kingdom. It is not only about the future second coming of Christ but about making a difference in the world today. It emphasizes an attitude of dependency and trust in God for the future.

-notice the transition from the first part of the prayer which is directed toward and about God (thy name, thy kingdom, thy will) to us. This priority matches Jesus’ teaching about first loving God with our heart, soul, and mind and neighbor as self (Matthew 22:36-40). We also see Jesus mention this thought in Matthew 6:33.

-we begin to see words like "us", "we", "ours" and are reminded that we pray to God alone but not for us alone, we pray as part of, and on behalf of, the whole community.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
-“daily bread” translates to bread for the coming day or our needful bread. There is a clear distinction being made between ‘wants’, ‘needs’ and ‘perceived needs’ and shows a dependence upon God to provide for our daily needs. Remember Jesus says that our Father knows our needs before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).

-"as we forgive" is the request that causes me to say we better be careful what we ask for. Here we are asking God to forgive us as we have forgiven others…that is heavy! How good are you at giving forgiveness?? Jesus stressed the idea again after the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15) which I don't think leaves much room for negotiation. This is also a forgiveness that extends outside the community of believers as we don't see Jesus qualify the forgiveness we are to show by mentioning believers only but "our debtors", anyone who has hurt us in some way. To truly pray this means we believe and acknowledge that Christ died for their sins as well as mine, and that He took upon Himself the justice they deserve.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
-James tells us in his first chapter that we know the trials and temptations will come and will serve to develop perseverance…(James 1:2-4). This is a request for God’s grace and strength to stand in the face of such trials and not to fall into evil. It doubles as a confession of recognizing without God's strength and grace we will fall into evil because with our own strength we cannot stand. It is a request of being led away from temptation or trials but still acknowledging God's will. We see a parallel to this in Jesus’ prayer in the garden…Mk 14:36 (Mt 26:42; Lk 22:42)

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
-notice how Jesus brings it all back around to focus on God’s kingdom, power and glory. We see that it begins and ends with God.

-we see how this is a prayer that brings people together, even those we might not expect. And so we pray this prayer with things like trust, forgiveness, persistence and community in mind.