Spiritual Wilderness Adventure


What do lent and Easter have to do with each other? Why should we fast in preparation for Easter?


I want us to see the value of quiet times apart for meditation and reflection on our lives.


We will look at Jesus’ wilderness adventure its context and the purpose of fasting.

The Symbol of a Dove

Small columbidae are generally called doves and larger ones are usually called pigeons. Why is the Holy Spirit pictured as descending like a dove in Mark 1:10? In the Old Testament Noah sent a dove to test if it was time to exit the ark (Genesis 8:8-12). In the same manner, the Holy Spirit lets us know when things are right. David sang of flying away on the wings of a dove to find rest (Psalm 55:6). In the same manner the Holy Spirit takes us to a place of rest. Solomon sang of his love being undefiled like a dove (Song 5:2; 6:9). In the same manner he is called the Holy Spirit. A dove was considered to be harmless (Matthew 10:16). In the same way the Holy Spirit wishes us no harm.

Our Wilderness Times

As Jesus’ was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12), life delivers us into lonely places. Losing a job and getting behind on the bills and being without health insurance can be a security wilderness. Losing a loved one to death or divorce can be a family wilderness. Moving to another part of the world for work or family can be a relationship wilderness. Going bankrupt or losing a house can be a financial wilderness. Straying from the straight and narrow can be a spiritual wilderness. A sudden illness or injury can be a health wilderness. What do we do in wilderness experiences? They are times to slow down and wait for the mighty hand of God. As God was with Noah, Israel, David, Elijah and Jesus let’s relax and await his revelation, peace and provision.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenaline junkies love the high of a stressful experience but must deal with the resultant lows. It is like a bipolar experience. Abnormally elevated adrenaline levels are followed by a period of depression. It’s a fight or flight response. Managing the body’s manic-depressive response is an essential skill for singers, public speakers, sports stars, soldiers, police officers and fire fighters. They each experience different kinds of extreme stress, but have a similar experience of adrenal fatigue. The adrenaline rush of good and bad times is followed by long or short periods of depression or adrenaline letdown. In extreme situations, post traumatic-stress disorder can result. Jesus had a wonderful baptism experience followed by forty days of loneliness in the Judean outback (Mark 1:12). Does Jesus’ wilderness experience teach us something about how to handle our own down times?

Wilderness Experiences

Lent remembers Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). It is also reminiscent of the forty days of rain in Noah’s day, the forty years of humbling and testing in the wilderness where God was with ancient Israel and they lacked nothing, Moses’ forty days on the mountain, forty days of scouting the promised land, forty years of peace under good judges like Othniel, Deborah and Gideon, forty days of mocking by Goliath, Elijah’s forty day journey into the wilderness where he heard the gentle, quiet voice of God and learned that seven thousand others had not bowed to false religion, and forty days after Jesus’ death when he was seen by countless witnesses. Wilderness experiences are like days of rain, with humbling and testing, yet they can also be great days of revelation, peace and God’s provision.

Demons & Wild Beasts

We all experience those times in the wilderness where we appear to be surrounded by demons and wild beasts (Mark 1:13). Jesus’ outback experience included temptation by the devil and danger from wild animals. Why? What are these times about? They are to test us and make us stronger. They are to build in us something that good times cannot, character. Suffering is good. Those who have suffered are deep and real. Those who have not yet suffered are shallow, spoiled brats. Just as the angels came to serve Jesus in his time of trial, we too must remember that in the midst of our bad times, where it seems like we are surrounded by predators and wickedness incarnate, remember that evil can only fail, because even there are the angels, ready and willing to take care of us.

Spiritual Wilderness Adventure

Many Christians copy Jesus’ example of fasting (Mark 1:13) taking time during Lent. A day to fast is good any time of year, but before Resurrection Sunday especially. Jesus’ wilderness experience set us an example of spiritual survival, encouraging us to also take times apart to meditate. A simple rule for wilderness survival is STOP (sit, think, observe, and plan). Fasting is a time to sit and think a long time, to observe and plan ways to change our lives. Canon law focuses on modes of fasting. Isaiah 58 teaches us to focus on the result. Do we fast humbly only to end up more selfish and oppress others more than before? Ought not the result of a fast be to pursue justice, set people free, to share food with the hungry, house the homeless, and cover the naked?

Law is Not the Answer

In a recent year the United States government added 80,000 pages of regulations. Some estimate that this burden now makes every American a criminal, because it is impossible to keep every law. In the same way that national law makes us all criminals, so has Moses' law made us all sinners (Romans 5:20-21). Excessive legislation not only increases the number of criminals but it also makes all of us into slaves (Galatians 4:21-31). Law has its place in controlling those who don’t have a desire to do the right thing (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but the letter of the law fails. Not enough laws can ever be written to cover every loophole. Where law fails, a change of heart and a belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ lead us towards a real answer (Mark 1:15).

A Near Kingdom

In Mark 1:15 Jesus announced: The kingdom of God is near; repent and believe the good news! What does that mean? The kingdom of God is both future and now, both here and almost here. We change our hearts and trust God's sovereignty. In order to become a citizen of a foreign country in this world, we may be required to actually live their for a number of years. We become part of God's kingdom and citizens of heaven before we get there. We come under his reign as we learn to trust that loving, saving authority. How then do we complete the journey and actually get to that country of our new citizenship? When traveling to a country of this world, we need a way. Jesus is the way to heaven. When entering a new country of this world, we go through an official gate. Jesus is our gateway.


Quiet times alone for meditation, fasting and reflection bring us closer to God prepare us for the mission of being better lights in the world.

To Whom Do We Listen?


Ezekiel’s prophecy of the valley of dry bones seems to indicate a crowd of dead people awaiting a future resurrection. Elijah was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind and nobody knows where Moses was buried. Are they already in heaven or are their bodies awaiting a future resurrection somewhere? Today’s passage does not answer the question, but leaves us with some interesting thoughts to ponder on death, resurrection and who Moses and Elijah prepared for.


We will look at questions of death and resurrection and the purpose of it all, Jesus.


We will examine the Transfiguration from Mark 9 and its purpose.

After Death

What happens when we die? Does our body await a resurrection? Are we given a resurrected body immediately? If our spirit goes to God, is it conscious or is it also asleep until a future resurrection? All the possible permutations and combinations exist as theories and somewhere there is a denomination that dogmatically defends its particular take on what happens when we die and when the resurrection is. As an introduction to the whole topic, let’s look at Mark 9:2-10 and see some possible things that it tells us. It seems to indicate that Elijah and Moses are very much alive today. Is that true, or is this just a vision of something that is yet in the future? What does a careful reading reveal? Even the disciples discussed among themselves, puzzling what rising from the dead could mean.

What Happened to Moses

Was salvation available under the Old Covenant, even though nobody could keep the law perfectly? What happened to Moses, the hero of the Exodus, after he died? He was a man of God, but in the end, due to a mistake he made, he was not allowed to enter the promised land. What about other Old Testament believers? In Mark 9:2-10 is a vision seen on a mountain top. Peter, James and John the inner three disciples witnessed it. The high mountain was probably Mt Tabor according to the most ancient witnesses. Jesus was transfigured in a metamorphosis. It was similar to what will happen after we die. We receive what is in other places called a glorified body. These disciples saw two Old Testament figures after their deaths. It is an encouraging vision of life after death.

What Kind of Jesus

What kind of Jesus do Christians worship? Is he merely a do-gooder? Was he a combination of the Beatles and the hippie movement, preaching “love is all you need?” Was his life grossly exaggerated by overenthusiastic followers? Whatever he was, he has more followers today than any other spiritual man in human history. In places like Mark 9:2-10 skeptics are challenged by the blatant metaphysical aspects of Jesus’ ministry. This passage is a simple report of an extraordinary experience. Jesus was transformed, metamorphosed in clothes that shone brightly. Two men appeared and were identified as supposedly deceased prophets Elijah and Moses. A cloud covered them and a voice spoke, "This is my beloved son, listen to him!" As the cloud faded the two men had disappeared. Is there life after death? Is Jesus God’s son? You decide!

Why the Transfiguration

What purpose could the transfiguration have served? Mark 9:2-10 is one of three accounts. There are clues surrounding the passage and perhaps even in other places. In verse 1 Jesus declared that some would see that the kingdom of God has come with power. This passage seems to fulfill that prediction at least in part. Brian Stoffregen suggests some other possible reasons for the transfiguration. It connects Jesus and the prophets under the law, but Jesus as the one to listen to, a fact that those overly reliant upon tradition, reason and experience often ignore. It was a mountaintop experience in the middle of their training. It exhibits Jesus’ divinity. His white robes could also symbolize his martyrdom. We learn that religious experiences do not necessarily remove blindness, because the disciples still discussed what it could mean.

The Law Fades Away

Elijah was taken up to heaven (2 Kings 2:1-11) and Moses' grave was unknown (Deuteronomy 34:5-8). Two angels disputed about Moses’ body (Jude 9). Tradition was they were both taken up by God. Origin wrote about "The Ascension of Moses," a legend that Moses had not died because a bright cloud blinded the eyes of bystanders so they could neither see when he died nor where he was buried. Moses and Elijah appear as representatives of the law and prophets, our Old Testament. Their roles were to prepare for the final Prophet to whom we must listen, and who would turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and vice versa (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Malachi 4:5-6). As the law fades away as a basis for salvation, so Moses and Elijah fade away leaving only Jesus.

Talking too Much

Like Peter in Mark 9:2-10 many of us are tempted to talk too much. In our relationship with God we pray, but do not listen enough. Like Peter, we have suggestions for God, rather than the most important thing which is listening to Jesus. Like the three disciples we want to discuss possibilities and theories rather than listen. Evangelism is perhaps less about preaching than listening, like hearing a drowning man who needs a rope rather than a sandwich. Generally, we are to listen to Jesus. In context, the disciples were told to listen to what Jesus had just preached, to have in mind the concerns of God, not merely human concerns, to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him, lose our lives for the Gospel’s sake, to not be ashamed of him and his words.

Listen to Whom

To whom should we listen, the bishop, the preacher, the televangelist, Saint Paul or the prophets of old? Should we listen to the founders of Christian movements like Wesley, Calvin, Luther and Zwingli? All of those people may have been faithful servants of God, but none of them is the final authority. The question is answered in Mark 9:2-10. It does not mean that we should demean others. In other places Jesus told us to love our neighbors and that would include those who preach and teach the gospel. However, in the absolute sense, we ought to listen to Jesus first and others after that. That means that if any preacher of the gospel teaches something that Jesus did not, it is really secondary and not an essential of the faith. We obey God and listen to Jesus.

Significance of the Transfiguration

What is the significance of the Transfiguration? It is an important moment where humanity meets God, the temporal meets the eternal. We bridge over dark days ahead with a foretaste of Easter. Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth, the new Moses, the Son of God to whom we should listen. Important voices of Elijah and Moses have been superseded. Honor and glory now belong to Jesus as Peter later recounted (2 Peter 1:16–18). Is this vision future or present? Jesus also taught that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32) indicating that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also alive in heavenly places. A heavenly life is also available to us. We can live that life now. God invites us to dwell in the glorified presence of Christ every day.


The Transfiguration does not answer all the questions we may have of death and resurrection, but answers the most important question of all, who is in charge of the resurrection and to whom we should listen. We are invited to dwell in his glorious presence every day of our lives.

Let's go!


Where are we going in our spiritual lives? How is our journey going? Are we going kicking and screaming or trusting that Jesus will lead the way?


Let us to be willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads even in old age.


We will look at Mark 1:29-39 where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and everyone else who came to him, then told the disciples, Let’s go!

Simon’s Mother-in-Law Served

In an age of gender bias and political correctness many Christians are offended by the fact that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law served them immediately after being healed (Mark 1:31). Why did not Simon suggest that she rests a bit? Why did the disciples allow it? All of this presumes that she was not completely healed, but needed some recuperation, which was not the case. She was completely well. We also need to overcome our historical and cultural biases when seeking to understand the times. The Bible teaches that it is an honor and privilege to serve guests and that selfish people demand that they be served. This was not just a woman’s role thing, as some might wish to insert into the Scriptures. Jesus showed the role of a servant by washing the disciples’ feet and dying on the cross.

Freed to Serve

The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:31) and her service after being healed is a metaphor for our calling. It is a message filling the whole of the Gospel of Mark, all the Gospels and all of the Bible. God wants to free us from the physical and spiritual consequences of a sinful world so that we might join him in service too, the mission to heal the world. God wants to free us from all the things that sin cause such as fear, failure, despair and doubt. Do we hear God’s promises selfishly, for us alone? Do we go to church and go home to our comfortable homes without one thought of sharing God’s healing with a hurting world? Do we see God’s healing as an opportunity to also free others from hunger, discrimination, sickness, or unjust incarceration?

All Kinds of Healing

Jesus performed numerous healings in Mark 1:29-39. So what kind of healings does God offer? Throughout the Bible we see that the healing offered by God is not limited to sickness, but encompasses all of our lives. The Bible includes examples of healing broken hearts, mental problems, national healing, healing agricultural land and healing a family breach. Every aspect of our lives is reachable with God’s healing. Today, we need to be healed nationally and individually. Our communities need healing, not just our dishonest business practices and crime. Our churches need to be healed, not just division caused by power politics and non-essentials of doctrine. Our politics needs to be healed, not just bitter rancor and mud-slinging. Our families and marriages need to be healed, especially for our children’s sakes. Where is that healing available? Find out in church.

Anointing the Sick

When Jesus healed people we are not always told what if any physical rituals or ceremonies he performed. Often he seems to have just helped someone to their feet and they were healed (Mark 1:29-39). The disciples anointed the sick with oil (Mark 6:13). Jesus, however, did one time anoint a man with mud made from his own spit for his healing and then asked him to wash himself in water (John 9:6-11). We could do that if people prefer, but somehow I think that most will opt for the example of the disciples and the instruction in James 5:14-16 to use oil. Who were the elders that James mentioned? The word elder means many different things to different denominations today. But, in the historical context of the day the word referred to local church leaders.

Let’s Go!

Jesus healed everyone who came to him. There is no description of him pointing the finger at anyone saying he does not associate with a particular group of people (Mark 1:32). He spent the next morning in prayer and told his disciples, Let’s go to a different place! We too have been brought to Jesus for healing and afterwards he is telling us too, Let’s go to a different place! It may be that he wants us to move from a place of judgmentalism to grace, or church-hopping unfaithfulness to loyalty to one church for life. We each have a spiritual journey to take. It is different for each of us, but it is always a journey of faith, a journey from a place where Jesus healed us to a place where we can join him in healing others.


Let us follow as Jesus beckons and go to a different place in our spiritual lives.

Good News about Exorcising our Demons


The world is filled with lives broken by sin. We are called to be an army sent to heal a broken world. 


Let us to see our purpose in a broken world.


We will look at Mark 1:21-28 and see the example of Jesus.

Sacred Times and Spaces

In Mark 1:21 Jesus entered a synagogue on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a sacred time under the Old Covenant and the synagogue was a sacred space for the Jews. In that sacred time and space, the teachers of the law believed that they had sacred authority, yet it was Jesus who taught with authority, effectively invading what they believed was their place not his. The one who was most outspoken about it was someone possessed by an unholy spirit. Think of it. The one who was most concerned with protecting what he thought was his sacred space was someone who wanted to possess it or had a possessive spirit. We confuse what is sacred to us with what is sacred to God. Let’s exorcise the demons of our own creation and get back to what is truly sacred.

As One Who Had Authority

What does it mean in Mark 1:22 that Jesus taught them as one who had authority? He did not teach like the Pharisees, yet they were the religious authorities of the day. They were known for nit-picky preaching. So, if religious authority does not make someone an authority to teach, what does? Let’s first of all look at the other extreme, those who teach as if they have authority, but their teaching is rubbish. Any ignorant fool can stand up and act like he knows it all, pulling ideas out of thin air and blaming the Holy Spirit for idiotic doctrines, but that is not what this is talking about either. To have the authority of Jesus, we ought to at least start by teaching what Jesus taught instead of inventing things that have no basis in his doctrines.

Impure Spirits

Jesus faced a demon with a critical spirit in the assembly (Mark 1:23). Where does such an attitude come from? What did the demon say? It muttered in effect, “What do you want here with us, Jesus, you outsider? Are you here to destroy us?” Even acknowledging who Jesus was, it had a negative attitude. If we find that our conversations revolve around tearing people apart rather than encouraging them, then let’s take the authority of Jesus over the evil in our hearts. Notice that the demon also possessed the man. Evil is about possession and control. Do we want to possess or control the church? If so, then we are acting like demons. Jesus came to set the church free, not possess it. Let’s cast out the demons of negativity in our lives by the authority of God.

Possessed by what Controls Us

In Mark 1:23 Jesus faced a demon that possessed a man. The demon controlled the man’s life. What owns us? Alcohol and drugs possess some people’s lives, but that is less common as other things. What about greed and the desire to be affluent? Do gluttony and selfishness possess us? Are we possessed by various national materialistic dreams? Money is what possesses politics. Have we ever heard someone run on a poverty platform, giving more of what we possess away? No, we are possessed by politics that promises more wealth. What about envy? Does jealousy of others possess us? What about criticism? Does a critical spirit possess us? What about lust? Does covetousness possess us? Perhaps demon possession is not as rare as we might think. Is our world filled with demons that want to own and possess us?

Exorcising our Demons

In Mark 1:26 when Jesus exorcised a demon he did not perform an elaborate ceremony. He simply used his authority and told the demon to be quiet and leave. We all have our demons. While we look down our noses at the drunk or drug addict, we may be possessed by the demons of judgmentalism and selfishness. While we criticize the overweight person, we may be possessed by the demons of pride and ego. While we smile outwardly we may be battling the demons of depression and despair. Worshiping the gods of chemistry may work for a while, but drugs only mask our demons. Pharmaceuticals are like crutches; they are needed because something is broken. The long term solution is often to find the cause, exorcise the demons and change our lives so that they will not come back.

Healers or Destroyers

Are we healers or destroyers? There are more accounts of Jesus healing than any other person in the Bible (Mark 1:27). What can we learn from his healings? Could it be that with Jesus people have a higher priority than rules and laws? Could it be that God is a God of compassion? Does Jesus want to heal more than our diseases? Does he also want to heal our lives? Why when Jesus healed people did he touch them, speak to them and use the physical means at his disposal? Not everyone has been given the miraculous gifts of healing that Jesus had, yet we all have opportunity to touch, speak and use the physical means at our disposal. A simple touch or word can heal or destroy. Jesus came to heal not destroy. Are we healers or destroyers?

Healing of a Nation

God healed Israel’s national problems (1 Samuel 6), water sources (2 Kings 2), leaders (2 Kings 20), land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14) and the people themselves even though they were not perfect (2 Chronicles 30:18-20). It was conditional, if people would humble themselves and pray to God and turn from their wrongdoings. David sang of God healing all our diseases (Psalm 103:1-3) and broken hearts (Psalm 147:3). True healing covers both body and soul and the source of that healing is the cross (Isaiah 53:5). God promised to those who honor God’s name that a new day of righteousness would dawn with healing (Malachi 4:1-2). Jesus healed people in their bodies, souls and minds (Mark 1:27). He continues healing the lives of those who have joined a new spiritual nation, the kingdom of God.

Healing since Ancient Times

If God can create, he can also heal the creatures which he created. God reveals himself as our healer throughout the Bible. Possibly the earliest healing in the Bible is when Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s household and God healed them (Genesis 20:17). God promised healing to Israel in Exodus 15:26 in return for their obedience. There is also our responsibility for the healing of those we have injured (Exodus 21:19). Numbers 12 and Deuteronomy 28 reveal that one cause of disease can be sin. And in Deuteronomy 32:39 God reveals himself as healer in a manner than no man can. So, when Jesus healed even what we term today as mental illnesses (Mark 1:28) it was a sign of his divinity. Though he does not always heal immediately, God’s promise of healing has not changed.

Healing Prayer

An important part of Jesus’ ministry two thousand years ago was to heal all kinds of illness and disease (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:21-28). He later ordained twelve to preach and heal (Mark 3:14-15). Healing was connected to Jesus appointment of preaching the gospel, healing broken hearts, proclaiming deliverance for those captive to sin, recovery of sight and freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21). Some in the church have a special gift of healing, but not everyone (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28-30). James 5:14-16 gave special instructions regarding healing in the church. The elders, which in the context referred to local church leaders, would anoint the sick with oil. James’ instructions did not preclude using other elements in healing. Jesus used mud. It is the prayer of faith that saves the sick not the elements used.


Salvation and healing are often the same word in Greek and Hebrew. We are called to be a salvation army to heal a broken world. Let us allow Jesus to teach us how.