Mark Fox April 26, 2020

You Can Run but You Cannot Hide

I learned pretty early on in my Christian walk that I could run from God but I could not hide. Like the time I decided to skip church one Wednesday night and watch television at my grandparent’s house. The only problem was, I really needed to have my glasses if I was going to watch TV, but I left them at home when I made the 2-mile drive over to Grandma’s. Why? Do you really have to ask why a 17-year-old who wears coke-bottle glasses because he’s blind as a bat would leave them at home when he’s driving through the neighborhood in the daytime? Have you forgotten how important it was to be cool when you were a teenager? It was important to me, too. And since I didn’t have a chance at being cool, I had to at least look cool! That didn’t work for me either, but I could still pretend, couldn’t I?

I headed home to collect my glasses. I slowed down just a little at the stop sign that was there just to test my skills at crossing from Grandma’s road to our road without having to tap the brakes more than once. Driving along, singing a song, and then I saw it. A blur of blue in my rear view. I couldn’t really tell what it was exactly, but I figured it wasn’t the northern lights, so I pulled over. A few seconds later, a sheriff’s deputy appeared at my door and I began to shake. I looked up and saw that his mouth was moving but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. My window! I rolled it down quickly and he said something again, but my ears had temporarily stopped working. He said it a third time, forcefully: “Get out of the car, sir!” I got out, half expecting him to slap some cuffs on me and drag me off to jail, since I had just had a wreck a few weeks earlier, a wreck that was my fault.

The sheriff’s deputy was asking me another question, and I didn’t answer because, once again, my  ears were refusing to work. The officer was beginning to think I was mute. And maybe blind. My glasses! He was asking about my glasses and why I wasn’t wearing them, and according to my license I was required by law to wear them. Did I know that I had run a stop sign back there, and did I know that I could be cited for driving without a license, and did I know that I had nearly run a car off the road? And suddenly I was in a time warp, and my first-grade teacher was saying, “Mark, did you know that it was wrong to hit Kip in the head?”

I was finally able to speak, and the sheriff’s deputy kindly served God’s purposes by giving me a ticket. I said “Yes, sir,” as he explained the consequences of my actions, and I said “Yes, sir,” as the DMV revoked my license for 60 days, and I said, “Yes, sir” as I paid my fine for running a stop sign.

The Bible says, “Your sin will find you out.” That’s for sure. I am thankful that the God who owns the universe governs my life. I can try to run from him, but I can never hide. He loves me too much to let me do that.

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Mark Fox April 26, 2020
Mark Fox April 20, 2020

Here Are Things We Can Learn While Staying at Home

A mother in Austin, Texas writes, “Here are some important things I have learned from my six-year-old son.  A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house about four inches deep.  If you hook a dog-leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 lb. boy wearing batman underwear and a superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a room. Always look in the oven before you turn it on. Plastic toys do not like ovens.  However, the fire department in Austin, Texas has a five-minute response time. The spin cycle on a washing machine will make cats dizzy. And…cats throw up twice their body weight when they’re dizzy.” (from “Car Talk”)

Ok, though I am sure some of you parents can relate with sighs and groanings, there are actually some really positive things we can learn during the shut-down. Many people are learning to play an instrument or speak another language. Some have started a blog or are working on the great American novel. Many who have not had time for exercise are being introduced to the joys of running or hiking or cycling. Some are working on really getting to know their spouse, or their children. Those are all excellent pursuits, and I would like to suggest one more.

With churches being limited to streaming services online or using conference calls to keep up with and teach the Bible to their people, the home has become an even more critical center for spiritual instruction. Dads and moms are awakening to the truth that they can teach their children to read and study the Bible. They are making time for prayer as a family and encouraging their children to develop a deeper relationship with God by talking to him and listening to him speak through his word. Many call this, “family devotions.” If you are unfamiliar with the term and don’t really know how to get started, let me encourage you with a few basic principles that my wife and I used with our children when they were still at home.

Pick a book of the Bible you want to take the family through, and then read a chapter or a part of a chapter every day. Proverbs is a great one. Take turns reading. After reading he passage, I would ask each child, “What did you like? Or what question do you have?” They knew the question was coming, so they were listening carefully as we read through the section, and they were asking the Lord to show them what they needed to hear in it. There was almost always a good discussion, and I especially enjoyed their questions. That gave me an opportunity to help them see something that they didn’t understand. Our children need to sense that there’s a freedom to ‘not know’ so they don’t feel foolish asking a question! They also need to know that you don’t know everything. That teaches them that learning the wisdom of the Lord is a lifetime process, and we are all students. There were times when I said, “I don’t know! But I will try and find an answer for you, and we will talk about it more tomorrow.” One other thing: some say they are waiting until their children are old enough to read before they start doing family devotions. Why wait? Read to them, and there are some excellent resources you can use with small children along with the Bible. My favorite is Sally Lloyd-Jones’ wonderful book, The Jesus Storybook Bible. 

After your time reading, spend some time praying. I would ask for prayer requests and then we would go around the circle, and each child would pray, even if it was just a sentence. We watched their prayers and their faith grow over the years.

Here’s the really exciting news. Leading family devotions does not require a Bible or seminary degree. You do not have to be an elder in your church, or even sing in the choir! Normal men and women can do it, and as they say, God must really love normal people like you and me, because he made so many of us.

Does this mean that when the churches open their doors again, you don’t have to go back? No! We need the body of Christ, we need the fellowship, the corporate worship, the preaching, the serving, missions, and all that goes into what is a healthy church. Your pursuit of learning to do family devotions will make your family a healthier member of the whole body, so start today, and don’t ever stop. My wife and I still have family devotions, just the two of us!

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Mark Fox April 20, 2020
Mark Fox April 13, 2020

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

You may have heard about the man walking through his neighborhood one night when he saw a child inching along on his hands and knees beneath a streetlight. “What’s wrong, Jimmy? Did you lose something?” the man asked. “Yes,” whimpered Jimmy. “I dropped the dollar Mama gave me for ice cream.” Feeling sorry for the boy, the man got down on his hands and knees and started looking diligently for the missing money. After a few minutes, he said, “I’m sorry, Jimmy, but I don’t see your dollar anywhere. Are you sure this is where you lost it?” “No,” Jimmy replied. “I dropped it over there in the vacant lot.” “What?” the man said. “If you dropped it way over there, why are you looking for it here?” Jimmy pointed across the street and said, “It’s dark over there and I can’t see a thing! I can see a lot better here.”

It occurs to me that Jimmy was more theologically correct than he knew. The only way you can find what you lost in the darkness is to come to the light.

The angels on resurrection day had a different question for the two women who had come to anoint the dead body of their Savior: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Why look in the darkness for the One who is the light of the world?

I sometimes think it might be helpful to have an angel or two pop up in front of me once in a while and ask me the same kinds of questions. “Hey, Mark, why are you living as though your Savior were still dead?” “Hey, why are you rummaging around in the dark when the things you need can only be found in the light?” And, “Hey, why are you still carrying that?”

We do tend to live as though Jesus were still in his tomb, and we often carry burdens that we should have put down a long time ago. We forget — or fail to trust — that Jesus finished the entire work of our salvation, and we say or think things like, “Well, yeah, Jesus died for my sins — but now it’s up to me to live a life good enough to get into heaven.” That’s thinking as though Jesus is still dead. 

Or, like the women who carried one hundred pounds of linens and spices to the tomb that morning, we struggle under heavy burdens and worry about things as though God expected us to handle life on our own. We say things like, “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” Wrong. We must pray. And we must work! But everything still depends on God. Otherwise, we live as though the One who conquered sin and death is not available, or not concerned, or not all-powerful. That’s living as though Jesus is still in the grave.

But Jesus is not dead. His grave is empty — there’s no reason to be looking for him there. And that’s why the angel’s question is such a good reminder to us — and a healthy rebuke when our faith needs to be directed once again to God’s promises. Let’s not live as though Jesus were dead; we have a risen Lord.

Truth cannot be sealed in a tomb…or in a life. It certainly was not with Jesus. May we worship Him openly, with great passion and joy and delight. May we walk humbly with Him, trusting Him for every step and for help with every burden.

He is risen!

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Mark Fox April 13, 2020
Mark Fox April 5, 2020

The Dark Day Had to Come First

When Jesus was crucified, there was darkness over the whole land for three hours. We know what it’s like when the power goes out, don’t we? But even when we had no power a few weeks ago because of the ice storm, we could see during the day. The “light” was still on. But at noon as Jesus hung on the cross, God turned off the lights. The darkness of the cross was magnified when God turned the sky black. Can I remind you for a moment of what Jesus was going through?

The punishment of crucifixion was meted out for such crimes as treason, desertion in the face of the enemy, robbery, piracy, assassination, and sedition. Among the Romans, scourging, undoubtedly to hasten impending death, preceded crucifixion. The victim then bore his own cross, or at least the upright beam, to the place of execution. A tablet, on which the feet rested or on which the body was partly supported, seems to have been a part of the cross to keep the wounds from tearing through the transfixed members. The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense, especially in hot climates. The swelling about the rough nails and the torn lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind was confused and filled with anxiety and dread foreboding. The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths. The length of this agony was wholly determined by the constitution of the victim, but death rarely occurred before thirty-six hours had elapsed. The end was sometimes hastened by breaking the legs of the victims and by a hard blow delivered under the armpit before crucifixion. The sudden death of Christ evidently was a matter of astonishment. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

Jesus suffered more than any man ever has, not just because of the brutal killing instrument that he hung upon and the unspeakable pain he bore. He suffered the greatest pain because of the punishment he bore. Could this be another reason why God turned off the lights? The darkness over the earth magnified the separation between God and his Son.

Alistair Begg says that the basic meaning of sin is to forsake God. Before you say, “Oh, I would never do that,” stop and consider. To forsake God can mean to go through your days as if God is not important. It is to live life on your own terms and only fit God into the picture when it is convenient, to have him as a sub-category in terms of what is really important to us. You are fine having him in the backseat. But you certainly don’t want him driving the car. The idea that he would take over and you would be under his authority in everything is offensive to you. If then, the essence of sin is to forsake God, the consequence of sin is to be God-forsaken. That’s why Jesus cried out as he did from the cross in His darkest hour, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

Why was the perfect Savior God-forsaken? Because he was bearing your sin and my sin in his body on the tree. Peter wrote, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.”

This is the mystery of Easter. The dark day had to come first, for the new day to dawn once and for all.

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Mark Fox April 5, 2020