Love God 

“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 

The world is fascinated with love. Innumerable songs, books, plays and poetry have been written on the subject. Love is the favorite theme of Hollywood movies, gossip rags and television shows. We even have Valentine’s Day, where we celebrate love with flowers, candy and romantic sentiments. 

I grew up hearing the words “all we need is love” heralded through the airwaves. Love was an important subject in the times of Christ as well. When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commandments He responded, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30 

The scribes understood exactly what Jesus was saying and agreed with Him fully. They said “to love God and to love others is more than all the offerings and sacrifices.” We have taken the greatest commandment and put it through the word processor of modern times and reduced it to one word: love. Even those who do not follow Jesus (and a few who do not even believe in Him) will quote Him as saying the greatest commandment is love. They will go on to espouse, that if we want to live and die right, all we need to do is be loving toward one another. Since Jesus declares that this is the most important of all commandments, it is vital that we understand that the command not only states love is the greatest responsibility of man, but also declares who we are to love. 

Just to love our family, or be compassionate toward those less fortunate than us, or to be kind to our fellow man, does not satisfy this commandment. We are only fulfilling the great commandment when we are loving God first, and loving others as an expression of our love for God. Ask yourself this morning, do I love God first? If you do, He should have first place in your life, which means He will have first place in your living. If you love Him, you will spend time with Him, in His Word and in prayer. You will seek to please Him with your actions and express your love to Him in worship. Just to love, or to herald the importance of love, does not satisfy the greatest commandment. Instead, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Pastor Jim

  

Turntables 

Mark 11:17
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

Journeying through the gospels, we have many glimpses into the emotions of Christ. We see His compassion for the multitudes and the sick, His love toward the rich young ruler, His sadness at the death of Lazarus, His tenderness toward the children, and so much more. As we encounter Him at the Temple, it is His anger that becomes evident to us. We read of Him turning tables over and driving people out of the Temple. Whatever we do not understand about this event, it is clear to all that Jesus is very upset with what is going on in the Temple courts. The key to unlocking the meaning of this event is in the words of Jesus Himself. He said,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves.”

The Temple and it’s ministries, we’re designed by God with the purpose of bringing sinful men into fellowship with God. A person would bring an offering to the priest, the offering was sacrificed, and sin covered. The Temple should have been a place where people loved and longed to go. When Jesus arrived, things had changed. The courts had been turned into a market place and worship became a way of making a buck. The money changers charged a high rate to convert the Roman coinage, used on the streets, into the Temple coins, used for offerings. The priests required the people to purchase sheep from them for sacrifice. All this was turning people away from fellowship with God, and restricting worship.

Today the church ought to be a place where sinners are drawn to Jesus, and people are able to fellowship with Christ. Just like priests, we can become guilty of doing things that hinder others from coming to Christ. Perhaps an attitude toward a neighbor or co-workers is keeping them from Christ. Perhaps a prejudice toward a certain group of people is hindering you from inviting them to church. We should seek to do our best to be sign posts  pointing people to Jesus, rather than road blocks that keep them away.

Is there anyone to whom you may have been a stumbling block? Anyone who, because of your behaviors, may have reason not to come to church? Take a few minutes to pray for them, that God would make you a positive influence upon them.

Pastor Jim

Help My Unbelief 

Mark 9:24
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

We are introduced to a man facing one of life’s greatest obstacles, the illness of his son. We have little glimpses into the great love he had for his child. We are told the father cried out with tears, and although the boy had been suffering from childhood, his father stood with him, even risking his life to rescue him. When he finally came face to face with Jesus, he was given a great promise; “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” This man’s response is both practical and poetic. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” It seems to me, this man had many reasons not to believe. His son, whom he loved, was tormented; this had been going on his whole life. He implies that time and time again, his son was at the point of death, only to be rescued by his father. It seems clear, nothing medically could help him. To make matters worse, he had come to the disciples, and they were no help. It is not difficult to understand why he was filled with unbelief. Love, medicine, and religion were of no help in overcoming the great obstacle he was facing. It is easy to see why his faith had waned.

I think it is important to note, that in the midst of this dilemma, he also had much reason to believe. He had been hearing of the great things Jesus had done for others. He had heard of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the possessed, all being transformed by simple faith in Christ. On top of that, he had a promise from God; “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” One of the great lessons from this man’s experience, is while he was being squeezed (on one side by doubt and the other by faith), he chose to act in faith. He made a decision. He would not allow his doubts to keep him from trusting in the promise of Christ. The result, his son was healed. We are much like this man. We have life obstacles that cause our faith to wither. In those times, we are being pressed by doubt on one side, and by the promises of God on the other. In those times we have a choice to believe life or believe Christ.

The great lesson from this man is that with all of his unbelief he chose to believe.

What will you do?

Pastor Jim

Giving Up To Gain

Mark 8:35
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

A paradox is a statement that seems contradictory or opposed to common sense, but is true. The statement Jesus reveals is one of life’s greatest paradoxes. Man was created to know God. Jesus said that He came to “give us life and that more abundantly” (John 10:10). When our lives are lived in complete obedience to the Lord, we experience the height of living. When we hold back, unwilling to give ourselves, our time, or some sinful activity, we think we are gaining, we think we are better off. However, that very thing we are holding onto, is the very thing keeping us from the abundant life Jesus created for us.

Knowing this, Jesus asks two questions; first, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

If true life is found in surrender to Christ, then what would be the benefit of holding onto all the world offers? Imagine if your phone was to ring this morning, and on the other end of the call were all the world leaders. They had decided the best thing for mankind was to make you king of the world. You get the title, the robe, the crown, the chair, and all the world’s goods are now yours. You possess all the wealth and all the power of the whole world. There is nothing you cannot have. The catch… you must deny Jesus. You can have this life but not eternal life. That my friends is a losing proposition. The right response is to hang up the phone.

Knowing that will not happen; knowing that no man has ever gained the whole world, Jesus asks a second question,

“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

You cannot have everything, so is there anything you are holding onto that is robbing you from the life Jesus has for you?Perhaps a relationship you thought would satisfy you, so you began to compromise your walk with the Lord; only to find that it is robbing you of the life found in Christ. Whatever it may be, anything you are holding onto, lay it all down and follow Christ.

Pastor Jim

They Could Not Tame Him

Mark 4:36
“When they had left the multitude . . .”

Mark 4 ends with the story of a dangerous journey on which Jesus took His disciples. Knowing all things, He knew they would face a storm on the sea. He knew this storm would be so great that those who had grown up fishing those waters, and experiencing rough conditions, would fear for their very lives. However, it is not until we venture into Mark 5 that we understand the reason for the journey was just one man. Jesus left the multitudes and took twelve men on a death-defying trip across dangerous waters, in order to reach this one man. Multitudes were flocking to Him, but in the country of the Gadarenes, a man was in need. This becomes even more amazing when we understand who this man was. We read of him,

“. . .who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.” Mark 5:3-4

As sad as that description is, I am struck by the final phrase, “neither could anyone tame him.” Tame him! What a word. It seems so out-of-place to be used of a man. It is a word I reserve for animals; yet, it is so appropriate for this man. His lifestyle, whatever that was, had ruined his life. The world had done all they could do to help, but to no avail. He was now chained in a graveyard, and people simply avoided him. That is, until Jesus, not only went out of His way to rescue this man, but took His disciples on a trip they would never forget, for the purpose of saving this one lost soul.

When the story ends, we find the man in His right mind, sent out to tell His friends what Jesus had done for Him. No doubt, he would explain how Jesus crossed a turbulent sea to save him. Let’s learn the lesson the disciples were meant to learn: Jesus places the highest value on the human soul, even if he is living like a wild animal.

Pastor Jim.

Preach The Gospel

Mark 16:15
“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel . . .”

imagePaul explained to the Corinthian church the simplicity of the Gospel message. He stated that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day; all according to the Scriptures. That was the message the first believers declared to their world. They went into their homes, streets, marketplaces, schools and places of business, declaring the Son of God died for our sins and rose from the dead.

Mary carries the honor of being the first to declare this wonderful news. Upon arriving at the empty tomb she was told,

“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. HE IS RISEN!”

She responded by running to tell the other disciples. Since Jesus had declared He would rise again, it seems they would hear this wonderful news and rejoice together. Jesus is alive! Instead, we read, they did not believe her. What would cause these men to doubt the Word of God, and the testimony of Mary? I think perhaps, it was the difficulty of their circumstances. They were allowing their difficulty to cloud their view of God, instead of allowing the Word of God to shed light on their situation. This is a common occurrence. We have all been guilty of the same struggle. We look to our hardship, and it casts a shadow of doubt upon the promises of God.

Later that night, the church gathered together. There has been, and always will be, comfort in meeting together with friends in times of hardship. It is worth noting what happens when Jesus shows up. He does two remarkable things. First, He rebukes them for their unbelief. While He is our compassionate High Priest who understands our weakness, He also expects us to lay hold of the promises of God, and live by them. Second, He commands them to go tell the world. I am convinced there is a connection here. When we let our circumstances cloud the promises of God, we fail to share those promises. Also, when we share those promises, it shows we truly believe.

These guys heard from Mary that Jesus was alive. They found this to be true, as they went out into the world and declared the Gospel. When filled with fear, they stood before a crowd and shared Christ, He showed up and people were saved. When they met the needy, the blind, lame, and sick, they prayed for them; He showed up, and they were healed. Often we question whether Jesus really is alive from the dead. I think we will find our answer as we go into the entire world and preach the gospel.

Pastor Jim

 

Response Required

Mark 15:20
“And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.”

IMG_1460We have come to the most solemn and most important of all Biblical events. The entire life and ministry of Jesus, as well as the whole of human history, has been leading up to these events. Jesus declared, no one could take His life, but that He would lay it down (John 10:18). That day has finally arrived. Without a fight, Jesus, the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth, was taken by the mob, condemned by the the courts, beaten by the soldiers, and nailed to the cross. There on a cross of wood, amidst the clamor of the mob, He would bear the penalty for the sins of all humanity. Louder than all the jeering of the mockers, the laughing of the soldiers, the accusations of the pharisees and the weeping of the disciples, rang out the cry “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?”

The answer to His question is one so great, it is beyond the human experience to understand. The Son of God, the One who always did the will of the Father and heard the Father declare, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, now experienced the greatest horror anyone could ever experience. The penalty of sin, separation from God, was placed upon Christ. When Isaiah wrote, “surely He bore our iniquity”, he was referring to the cross. He was speaking of the weight, the guilt and the penalty of sin being placed on Christ, so we would never have to bear it ourselves. Oh, what amazing grace, that Jesus would bear my sin and yours.

It has always amazed me to observe the reaction of the people around the cross, as Jesus is being crucified. I notice the soldiers at the foot of the cross. Failing to understand the severity of the moment, or the brevity of life, they are playing games for Jesus clothes. How sad that many still treat Jesus in the same way. Instead of seeing Him as Savior, and surrendering to Him as Lord, they look to Him for what they can get out of Him. Their relationship with Jesus is reduced to simply seeing Him as the one who will give them what they want.

I notice the crowd, made up of people from all walks of life. While He is bearing their iniquity, they are asking Him to prove Himself. It is not enough that He lived a sinless life, fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, and transformed the lives of all who received Him; these men wanted further proof. Isn’t it interesting, by ignoring their request to come down from the cross, Jesus is, in fact, proving He is the Savior. What horror would await us had Jesus acquiesced to their request and come down from the cross. Instead of the penalty of sin being placed upon Him, it would still be awaiting us.

I also notice the centurion who stood by watching these events. He had a front row seat as the Son of God breathed His last. Rather than accepting the popular opinions about Jesus, he cried out,

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

If we will look to Him, as the centurion did, believing He is the Son of God and Savior of Humanity, then we will see Him transform our lives and find that instead of horror, heaven awaits us.

Pastor Jim