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First Things First

August 17, 2014 | Mark 12:30 | three commitments

Pastor Gary Combs continues the “Simplify Your Life” series with this message from Mark 12:30. In the book of Mark, Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment. In a sense he was asked to simplify all of the writings of Scripture down to one simple statement. Jesus didn’t pause. He gave them a simple command to celebrate God with all of your love. We can hear and follow this same simple command.

“When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, ‘This man truly was the Son of God!'” (Mark 15:39 NLT)

March 11, 2014

Roman soldiers were expert executioners. They had seen men die in the cruelest of ways. They had seen their various human responses to torture and death. Yet, this officer had never seen anyone endure suffering as Jesus did. What was it about Jesus that moved this hardened death squad centurion? Was it his dignity and demeanor amidst such ugliness and disdain? Was it his care for the thief crucified beside him or his forgiveness of the taunting crowd? Perhaps it was the darkening of the sky or the ground that shook when he cried out his last? Maybe there was a way that he looked at the Roman leader with compassion in his eyes even as he was dying? Whatever it was, this officer was moved to affirm Christ’s identity. His normally sarcastic, biting tongue was moved to childlike wonder. I wonder. What became of this Roman officer? Did he turn in his sword for a seat at the Table?

“The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17 NLT)

March 3, 2014

On the Monday before Christ’s crucifixion He entered the Temple and cleared it of its sellers and money changers. They had apparently made the outer court, known as the Court of the Gentiles, into a marketplace. Jesus was furious. The outer court was meant to offer a place of prayer and refuge of hope to the nations, but the Jewish leaders had turned it into a retail business. This is a fair warning to the Church. Jesus has commissioned us to be a light and to proclaim the gospel to the nations. When we turn inward and use the Church for our own members’ gain, we neglect Christ’s Great Commission.

“‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked” (Mark 10:51 NLT)

March 2, 2014

A blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road leaving Jericho as he heard that Jesus and His disciples were passing by. He yelled for Jesus’ attention, calling Him by His Messianic title, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd’s attempts to quiet Bartimaeus only made him yell louder. Finally, Jesus called to him, asking what he wanted. Surely the man’s blindness was obvious to anyone. Jesus, who even knew people’s thoughts, surely knew the man was blind. Yet, he asked what he wanted. Bartimaeus quickly replied, “I want to see!” With this answer, Bartimaeus spoke with faith, believing that Jesus could give him his sight. Jesus knows our needs even before we pray, yet He still listens for us to ask Him in faith. Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus. Pray specific prayers.

“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35 NLT)

February 28, 2014

Jesus turned the theory of leadership upside down. He taught His disciples, who were arguing about who would rise to leadership, that the path to greatness in God’s economy was downward, not upward. Jesus was the model of the Servant Leader. He led by service. Washing feet, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, teaching the ignorant– this is how Jesus led. And this is how He still expects us to lead. Leadership is a stewardship.

“Jesus called his disciples and told them, ‘I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance'” (Mark 8:1-3 NLT)

February 25, 2014

Jesus felt compassion for the hungry. He noticed their need and then took action to address it. We don’t read that the disciples felt compassion. When faced with human need we learn to turn a blind eye. There is so much need and we are so concerned with our own. Surely the disciples themselves were hungry too. And It’s hard to feel sorry for others when your own stomach is growling. Yet, both the disciples and the crowd were fed when the disciples obeyed Jesus. Through Jesus we become aware of the needs of others. We feel His compassion flowing. When we move to meet the needs of others in His Name, we find that our own needs are met in Him as well.

“Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. ‘All of you listen,’ he said, ‘and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart'” (Mark 7:14-15 NLT)

February 24, 2014

Jesus explained that sin begins with an attitude of the heart before it becomes a behavior. Focusing on changing the behavior is unfruitful when only faith in Jesus will change the heart. The human heart is born with an attitude of rebellion against God saying, “My will,” rather than “Your will be done.” This teaching of Jesus also served notice that certain Pharisaical cleanliness laws were human additions to the Mosaic law and therefore not binding. This is an example of the saying that “law begets law.” The Pharisees had not lightened the burden of the people, instead they had added to it.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.'” (Mark 6:31 NLT)

February 23, 2014

A sharpened saw cuts more efficiently, but you have to take a break from sawing long enough to sharpen the blade. Long before Covey wrote “The 7 Habits,” Jesus taught His disciples to pull away with Him to rest. Working without rest results in diminishing returns. A rhythm of work and rest produces the best outcome. This rest must include certain aspects: 1) “Let’s” – Spiritual rest means time alone with Jesus, 2) “go off” – Physical rest requires a pulling away from work completely. 3) “by ourselves” – Social rest involves time away from others, and 4) “quiet place” – Mental rest means a place where input from various media is cut off, so that the mental faculties can recover. When we follow Jesus in this rhythm of work and rest, we discover new strength and insight for life.

“For she thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.'” (Mark 5:28 NLT)

February 21, 2014

This woman had suffered with a continuous issue of blood for 12 years. She had bankrupted herself spending on doctors but found no relief. Her condition meant that by Levitical law she was unclean. She could not enter the Temple to bring sacrifice. She could not be with her husband or touch another human being, for that would make them unclean as well. She was like a societal leper. She risked everything by being in that crowd following Jesus. She risked even more by touching the hem of His robe. Yet, her faith was rewarded. After 12 terrible years, she was instantly healed with just a touch. But she didn’t get away with a stolen miracle. Jesus took notice. He knew. He called her “Daughter,” welcoming her to the family of faith. Her impurity had not made Jesus unclean, but His holiness had been transmitted to her making her whole.

“So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them” (Mark 5:20 NLT)

February 20, 2014

Jesus and the Twelve crossed to the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee to a Gentile region known as the the Gerasenes near the Decapolis (Ten Cities). They went through a terrible storm on the way across that so terrified the disciples that Jesus had to calm it. Then, as soon as they landed they were met by a demon-possessed man that lived in the tombs. After Jesus cast the demons out into a nearby herd of pigs, the locals were so afraid of Jesus that they begged Him to leave. The healed demoniac however, begged to go with Jesus. Instead, Jesus appointed him to go to the Decapolis and tell what God had done. When we read this story, it appears that Jesus crossed over to a Gentile land, in spite of a terrible storm, to heal and ordain one demoniac to be a disciple. Jesus is still calling us to cross over to the other side to call those that He wants to save.