Binding Broken Hearts

Introducing Jesus to Those Who Need Him Most

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Binding Broken Hearts Blog

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 3:1-6

When we last saw Jesus, we saw His interactions with two groups of disciples (those of the Pharisees and those of John) and with the Pharisees themselves regarding true freedom in Christ and the celebration of the Sabbath.

After Jesus finished the conversation with the Pharisees, Jesus and the disciples went into the synagogue (Mark 3:1). And the Pharisees followed right after Him.

“He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.” (Mark 3:1-2)

Then Jesus did exactly what the Pharisees expected Him to do. “And He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’” (Mark 3:3)

But then Jesus did something they did not expect Him to do. He turned and directed His attention on them.

“Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’” (Mark 3:4)

Before entering the synagogue, Jesus had had a conversation with these Pharisees about what was and was not lawful to do on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28). And here Jesus stood with a man of their own congregation who was in great need of healing. Should Jesus tell the man to return to his seat because His healing power was not to be used on Sabbath? Should the man have to wait and seek out Jesus after sundown for his healing? What picture of God would that paint?

There was no good answer to Jesus’ question. So the Pharisees simply stood there glaring at Jesus.

“And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, …” (Mark 3:5)

The Greek word translated as anger is ŏrgē (or-GAY), a surge of passion and indignation.

The Greek word translated as grieved is sullupeo (sool-loop-EH-o), to feel sorry for, be deeply distressed, to grieve together.

Could it be that Jesus was not so much angry AT the Pharisees, but angry FOR the Pharisees because He knew where the hardness of their hearts would lead them – away from Him and toward the enemy of souls? Remember, Jesus was just as interested in saving each Pharisee as He was in saving the leper or paralytic. Every person is a child of God, and God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b)

“He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5)

Jesus healed the hand of His son on the Sabbath because the Sabbath is a day of restoration, healing, and rest in Him. This was a lesson that Jesus wanted His people to understand. This is a lesson we still need to understand today.

But it was one that the Pharisees did not learn that day.

“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” (Mark 3:6)

They left the synagogue that day not rejoicing in the freedom and restoration of one of their church members, but filled with anger and hatred for the Redeemer – the hardness of their hearts taking them directly where Jesus saw it would. And Jesus grieved.

Before we smugly read this and think about those poor Pharisees who missed what was right in front of them, take some time and ponder these questions:

  • Do you spend dedicated and consistent time in God’s Word so you could hear the lessons God wants you to learn?
  • Are there lessons today that God is trying to share with you but which you are ignoring because the lessons are painful or not what you really want?
  • Are you angry with God because of something that has happened that you are not happy with and you don’t understand why God would allow that?
  • Have you been angry with God for so long that you are almost ready follow the enemy of souls?

We may not be so different from the Pharisees after all.

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.’” (Isaiah 1:18)

“Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 2:18-27

When we last saw Jesus, we saw His call to Levi Matthew which led to a discussion with the Pharisees regarding His true mission – to seek and save the lost.

After Jesus finished the conversation with the Pharisees, the next encounter Jesus has is with the disciples of the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist. The subject was fasting.

The disciples of the Pharisees and John the Baptist were observing some sort of fasting period, but Jesus and His disciples were not. These two groups of disciples got together and approached Jesus to find out why. Perhaps they had been watching Jesus, noticed He and His disciples were different, and were honestly seeking an answer.

Jesus responded by talking with them about the Bridegroom (who would one day not be with them and that would be a time for fasting), about new cloth patches on old garments, and about new wine in old wineskins. (Mark 2:19-22)

What I see in this response is Jesus gently leading these two groups of (possibly seeking) disciples to begin to strip away the traditions and mindsets that had built up over time and which obscured the clear word of God.

Being disciples, they must have had a heart to follow God. Perhaps they were over burdened with rules and regulations they were trying to adhere to which did not have a basis in Scripture. Perhaps they had come to the end of their ropes feeling as though they would never be good enough to earn God’s favor. Perhaps they began to see the freedom that is found only in Jesus. Perhaps the encounter with Jesus that day was life changing for some, if not all, of them.

The questions continued. The next encounter recorded is with the Pharisees again. This time they are not pleased with how Jesus is comporting Himself on the Sabbath. Jesus and the disciples were plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath as they walked through a field.

“And the Pharisees said to Him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” (Mark 2:24)

Jesus has just as much desire to bring freedom to the Pharisees as He did for the two groups of disciples. Jesus’ response was not a defense of His actions. By His response He wanted the Pharisees to see the Sabbath in the light of Scripture – that the Sabbath is a day to celebrate a relationship with God and all He has done for us. Jesus wanted the Sabbath to once again be a delight to them, and not a day of heavy burdens.

How is it with you today? Are you struggling under a load of burdens that may not be rooted in Scripture? Have you come to the end of your rope because you will never be good enough to win God’s favor? Then our Bible passage today is especially for you.

I encourage you to stop struggling. The truth is you will never be good enough to win God’s favor. You already have God’s favor because He loves you dearly. And if you accept it, you can have Christ’s righteousness envelope you like a cozy blanket on a cold, rainy evening.

I also encourage you to study the Bible for yourself and find the sweet simplicity of being a Jesus follower. Let God’s Word be life-changing for you today.

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 2:13-17

When we last saw Jesus, we saw His healing of the paralytic man in response to the faith of the man’s four friends.

After Jesus finished teaching in the house, He walked outside Capernaum’s city gates and took the road that led down to the seashore. On the way out of the city, Jesus (and the large group of people following Him) passed by the tax collection booth that strategically positioned to catch folks coming and going from Capernaum.

Because Roman tax collection was so odious to the Jewish population, everyone avoided making eye contact with the tax collector in the booth hoping to escape notice. This had become such a habit, that I’m sure folks didn’t even see the tax collection booth any more unless they were compelled to stop.

However, Jesus saw that tax collection booth. More importantly He saw the tax collector in the booth.

“As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him.” (Mark 2:14)

Mark is the only gospel that refers to Levi as the “son of Alphaeus.” The other gospels refer to him simply as Levi Matthew. I find this detail intriguing because another of Jesus’ disciples is always referred to as “James the son of Alphaeus” (e.g., Luke 6:15) to differentiate him from James the brother of John (sons of thunder). Either the name Alphaeus was popular back in the day, or Matthew and James were brothers.

Because it’s a logical option, let’s go with the idea that Matthew and James were sons of the same Alphaeus and were therefore brothers. Why is this an important point? Glad you asked.

For reasons that we don’t know, Matthew chose to work for the Roman government collecting taxes from his fellow countrymen. Nowadays, folks who work for the IRS may not be our favorite people, but we know that that they are all US citizens. How much worse would it be if the IRS represented a foreign, invading government like Rome was to Israel?

Once Matthew started working for Rome, he became persona non grata among those were his family and neighbors. He was an outcast among his people. Someone to be hated and avoided.

But one of Matthew’s brothers – James – began to follow a young rabbi named Jesus. And James began to change as he spent more and more time with Jesus. Could it be that James’ heart toward his “Roman loving” brother began to change? Could it be that James began to reconnect with Matthew? Could it be that James began to tell Matthew everything he was learning from Jesus? Could it be that Matthew began to venture into the large crowds surrounding Jesus to hear Jesus’ teachings for himself?

Could it be that all of this provided the ground work in Matthew’s heart so that when Jesus said, “Follow Me,” Matthew jumped up immediately and followed?

Something to think about. Don’t ever give up on those within your realm of influence. Keep sharing Jesus quietly, softly, creatively. The day will come when Jesus will say to them, “Follow Me,” and maybe, just maybe, they will jump up and follow.

Once Matthew accepted Jesus’ invitation, he went into action to share the good news of what had happened to him.

“Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.” (Mark 2:15)

Matthew’s life was completely transformed by Jesus, and he wanted all of his co-workers, friends, and acquaintances to experience the same transformation. So he introduced them all to Jesus. And, as a result, they followed Jesus as well. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us this, I wouldn’t be surprised if each of these people immediately went out and told others of what Jesus had done for them. The ripple effect in action.

Take a moment and think about this – are you so overwhelmingly thankful for all that Jesus has done for you that you want everyone you know to experience the same thing? If not, you may want to take some time with Jesus and let Him remind you of His matchless love.

Of course, while Jesus poured His life-giving grace into thirsty souls, Satan was not happy about it. So he stirred up the Pharisees to try to stop it.

“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Mark 2:16)

I believe that the Pharisees, on some level, took Satan’s bait on this because their desire was to remain pure and holy. The Pharisees were the group who, after the Babylonian exile, were charged with making sure Israel wasn’t taken into captivity again by keeping everyone in line with God’s law. They came from the perspective that to remain pure and holy, you had to avoid everyone you deemed impure and unholy.

However, Jesus turned that notion upside down by reiterating to the Pharisees His mission statement.

“When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus mingled with those He came to save (including the Pharisees, by the way) and yet He remained pure because of God’s righteousness, not because He avoided unholy people.

The truth is, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get in contact with folks you may not want to in order to share the gospel with those who are in desperate need of it. And when you do, don’t be surprised if Satan comes at you from multiple directions as you work to share Jesus with others.

Answer the opposition the way Nehemiah did:

“So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’” (Nehemiah 6:3)

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 2:1-12

When we last saw Jesus, we saw the deep, visceral compassion Jesus had for a leper who came to him for help – someone no one else wanted to help.

After Jesus had spent some time out in the countryside, He once again returned to Capernaum. The news of His arrival did not take long. Soon the house He was staying in was filled to capacity inside, and then the courtyard became standing room only.

Everyone wanted to be near Jesus. Everyone wanted to hear Him speak of the heavenly Father and heaven itself. Everyone wanted a touch of healing. Everyone pressed as close as they could.

Normally, this would be a good thing – a large gathering of people eager to hear the Word taught. However, in their own eagerness to be near Jesus, the crowd inadvertently created a barrier that kept others from getting in.

Others like the paralytic who sought, and received, healing from Jesus.

The majority of the time when this passage is written about, taught, or preached on, the focus of the message is on the need of the paralytic, the compassion of Jesus, and how Jesus met both this man’s spiritual and physical needs. These are all true, and they are all comforting and inspiring.

However, today I want to take the few minutes we have together to focus on the four friends in this story.

1) The four friends brought the paralytic to Jesus

“Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.” (Mark 2:3)

It may seem obvious, but the paralytic could not get to Jesus on his own. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether the paralytic asked his friends to take him to Jesus or if the friends arrived at the house and picked him up and took him. Whether the idea was the paralytic’s or not, if his friends had not taken the time out of their busy schedules and brought the paralytic to Jesus, the paralytic would not have made it there.

Are there people in your sphere of influence today who need something in their lives, but they don’t know what it is, something you know that would be addressed if they met Jesus? Are there people in your sphere who are longing to meet Jesus, but they don’t know to get started? You may have to carve out time in your busy schedule, but perhaps you are just the friend to guide them to Jesus. Pray and ask God to show you those around you are ready to be taken to Jesus, and then do it.

2) The four friends met obstacles

“And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd.” (Mark 2:4a)

The four friends picked up the paralytic and headed toward the house where Jesus was staying. Perhaps they were so busy practicing what they would say to Jesus when they saw Him that they didn’t notice the street getting more crowded with people the closer they got to the house. At any rate, they did notice when they came to a complete stop and couldn’t go any farther.

I’m sure at first they tried to squeeze through the crowd. But the crowd wouldn’t budge. Remember, everyone wanted to see Jesus themselves. No one would give way.

Perhaps they walked all around the courtyard on the outside edge of the crowd looking for any way into the house to see Jesus, all to no avail. There was no way into the house.

When you start asking God to show you who around you are ready to meet Jesus, be sure that you will encounter obstacles. The enemy of souls is not at all pleased when it looks like subjects of his kingdom will defect to God’s kingdom. If you join God in this work thinking that all will be rosy and sunshiney, complete with bunnies and rainbows, you will be gravely disappointed. You need to be prepared mentally and spiritually for the obstacles you will meet.

3) The four friends pushed forward and overcame the obstacles

“And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” (Mark 2:4)

At any point, the four friends could have stopped, turned around, and taken the paralytic home, concluding that there was no way to get to Jesus. They could have stopped as soon as they saw the large crowd. They could have stopped when they tried to squeeze into the house. They could have stopped when they walked around the courtyard and saw no way in.

But, praise God, they didn’t!

Today we would say that they thought outside of the box. Perhaps while standing in the courtyard after walking the perimeter, one of the friends mentioned the stairs he had seen leading to the roof. Another one jumped off that idea and suggested that they break through the roof tiles and lower the paralytic through. How hard could it be? he asked.

Back to the side of the house with the stairs they went, slowly climbing in order to not bump the paralytic too badly. Once on the roof, they set the paralytic down and got to work. One tile at a time was removed until the hole was big enough to lower the stretcher through. They didn’t stop working until the paralytic was gently on the floor at Jesus’ feet. They had connected the paralytic with Jesus. Mission accomplished.

When we meet obstacles in bringing people to Jesus, we, too, need to pray and think outside the box. We need to be willing and prepared to be creative in making connections between the people who need Jesus and Jesus Himself. We need to be just as committed to this task as the four friends were and not give up or stop until the person we are leading to Jesus is brought face to face with Him.

4) The four friends had the faith in Jesus

“When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’” (Mark 2:5)

Perhaps on the way to the house, the paralytic began to have doubts. Perhaps the initial excitement at seeing Jesus began to fade. Perhaps the paralytic had been sick for too long and started to believe the lies that were shooting into this mind that he wasn’t good enough for Jesus to heal.

The Scripture is clear, though. Jesus saw the faith of the four friends and honored that faith. Because of the faith of the four friends, the paralytic was healed.

How important is it, then, that WE do not give up our faith in Jesus on behalf of those whom we are bringing to Him? Will we, like the four friends, never waver in our faith? Will we not let anything stop us from finishing the work we start as we lead people to Jesus?

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24)

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 1:39-45

When we last saw Jesus, we learned that the source of His power came from the time He spent with His Father regardless of how much sleep He had or had not gotten the night before. He gave us the example to rise early and spend both quality and quantity time with God so that we can meet the challenges of the day.

After being rejuvenated and repowered by His Father, Jesus went “preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.” (Mark 1:39)

Word spread rapidly. Galilee was turned upside down, as it were, as Jesus preached, healed, cast out demos, and met the needs of the people. The residents of Galilee (and probably even further afield) had never seen anything like this. Everyone who knew anyone with a need brought that person to Jesus because Jesus could do what no one else could.

Into this atmosphere of amazement, rejoicing, and thanksgiving, comes a lone figure.

“Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’” (Mark 1:40)

I find this statement from the leper interesting. Jesus had been going from place to place throughout Galilee performing all manner of miracles for any and every one. And yet somehow this leper felt that he would be the one person that Jesus would refuse to heal.

Do we not, at times, approach Jesus in the same way? That somehow we will be the one person that He will refuse to listen to? That He will just turn away and ignore our cry for help? Do we see Jesus as someone who has to be talked into helping us, but only after we’ve made enough progress ourselves and using language that has just the right twist to, well, twist His arm?

Here’s a twist. In light of the leper’s view of himself as he approaches Jesus, Mark gives us a beautiful insight into the heart of Jesus.

“Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’” (Mark 1:41)

Jesus was “moved with compassion.” The Greek word is splagchnizomai, which means “to feel deeply or viscerally, to yearn, have compassion, pity.” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament)

Jesus did not have to be talked into helping this leper. Jesus didn’t heal the leper because the leper had a fabulous sales pitch or track record in his life. Jesus, seeing this man, felt compassion deep within His gut and longed to helped him. When we think of Jesus, do we see someone who has a deep, visceral longing to help us with whatever we may need?

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus sent the jubilant man – previously known as leper – straight to the priest (think – do not pass Go) to fulfill the requirements of Moses and to be officially proclaimed as healed in the local records.

The man didn’t quite go directly to the priest, although I’m sure he made it there eventually.

“However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” (Mark 1:45)

I have a feeling that if that had been me, I would have been telling everyone along the way as well. But, wait, don’t we too have things to share every day about the way Jesus has worked in and through us?

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” (Psalm 107:1-2)

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 1:29-39

When we last saw Jesus, He had been in the synagogue on the Sabbath and had released a man from demon possession during the worship service.  Truly, what better way to worship than to see someone released from the clutches of Satan!

After the Sabbath worship service, Jesus walked next door to Peter’s house for a wonderful Sabbath meal. When Jesus entered, He did not find a joy-filled house. Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever. I can imagine that Peter’s wife was worried about her mother, and was perhaps a bit distracted and not quite focused on the guests.

As soon as Jesus found out about the illness, “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her.” (Mark 1:31)

Joy reigned in the house again, and everyone, including Peter’s mother-in-law, enjoyed the fellowship meal.

But the day was not done for Jesus. “At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.” (Mark 1:32-33)

I wonder if the man who was released from demon possession during the worship service early in the day had spent the afternoon telling everyone he met about his new-found freedom and how Jesus gave him a new life. Perhaps this is why “the whole city was gathered together at the door” to Peter’s house.

Person after person worked their way through the line to see Jesus. A healing here. A prayer there. A hug for someone who just couldn’t go on any more. A touch. Freedom. Joy. Singing. Spontaneous praise to God. No one had seen anything like it before.

The day was long, and Jesus must have been exhausted. Any of us after a day like Jesus had would hate to set the alarm clock for the next morning. We would want to drain every last drop of sleep that we could. But not Jesus.

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

And just like that, conviction slaps me in the face.

Jesus had had an exhausting day of healings, hand-to-hand battle with demons, ministering to the brokenhearted, and lifting and removing heavy burdens. And yet, even after all that, sleep was secondary for Him. What was most important for Him in His daily routine was quality (and most likely quantity) time with His Father.

The secret to Jesus’ power was not the number of hours He slept each night, although getting sleep is needful and good. The secret to Jesus’ power was the time He spent in prayer and connection with His Father.

May each of us make a commitment to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and intentionally carve out time every morning to be with Him.

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.” (Psalm 63:1-3)

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Sacrifice and Service - Mark 1:21-28

After Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him full-time, His next stop was Capernaum. Their stay extended over a Sabbath, so Jesus and His followers went to the synagogue, where Jesus was given the opportunity to speak.

At some point during the teaching, a man with an unclean spirit interrupted the gathering.

“Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:23-24)

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about this man. We don’t know his past. We don’t know how he came be possessed by this unclean spirit or how long he had been tormented. We don’t know if he was a regular attendee at the synagogue or whether he was a person off the street that was driven inside by the unclean spirit.

What we do know is that the man was consumed by a power outside of himself that he was unable to free himself from by his own power. We also know that he was brought face-to-face with Jesus, the only One who had the power to free him. It took only one simple command from Jesus to release the man who was seemingly unreleasable.

“But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’” (Mark 1:25)

The unclean spirit tried to show his muscles and fight the command of Jesus, but in the end, after all the bravado, it wasn’t able to countermand the Holy One of God.

“And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.” (Mark 1:26)

Peace reigned. The man was free. The worshipers had never seen anything like this before – a power that could free someone from even the most entrenched evil.

“Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.’” (Mark 1:27)

This story is especially meaningful to me for two reasons:

First, no matter what I am going through, no matter how long I have been battling a bad habit or a sin, no matter how entrenched something is in my life, no matter how unreleasable I feel, Jesus is willing and able to set me free. All I need to do is allow Him to have control over that area of my life and then follow His command.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Second, the same power He showed over the unclean spirit in this one man’s life, He now has over the entire powers of darkness because of His victory on the cross.

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

As we commemorate Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection this Easter Sunday, may we be refreshed, renewed, and revived by the living hope we have in Jesus our Savior.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

May each of us be blessed with a resurrection in our lives today and walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4) in an ever-deepening walk with Jesus!

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Sacrifice and Service - Mark 1:16-20

In the second half of Mark 1, Jesus begins to officially create the small team of men whom He will groom to grow the church after His resurrection. As Jesus walked on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, somewhere between Bethsaida and Capernaum, He paused and watched four men at work in their fishing business.

He watched as they discharged their duties with the precision of those who excel in their labors. Jesus knew that the skills they had developed would serve them well in “fishing” for souls. But what meant more to Jesus than skilled followers was the heart for truth that each of the men had.

“And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.” (Mark 1:16-20)

Two things touched my heart from these verses:

First, Jesus called businessmen to join Him in changing the world for God’s kingdom. So many times we can get caught up in thinking that only those who are spiritually trained (e.g., pastors, evangelists) can work with Jesus to change the world. We may feel that because we are good in business, or teaching, or art, or any other career, that joining Jesus in His work is not for us.

But Jesus went specifically to the beach to find Peter, Andrew, James, and John to extend His invitation. He valued their experience and expertise. Jesus even framed the invitation in the language they understood best – “I will make you fishers of men.”

This means that each one of us today can be used by God to further His kingdom right where we are, with the experience and expertise we have developed by honing our craft. It could very well be that God will ask us at some point to shift gears and leave our occupation in order to work in full-time ministry. However, for the most part, we can build God’s kingdom doing what we do every day and reaching those in our immediate sphere of influence as we follow Jesus and point others to Him. So let’s use the talents, gifts, and experience God has given us to reach souls for Jesus.

Second, I am really challenged by the immediacy of the response from Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus called, and in that moment, they left what they were doing. They left their nets, their boats, their businesses, and their homes to follow Jesus, the itinerant rabbi.

Do I respond like this when Jesus asks me to leave something behind so that I can follow Him more fully? Do I just drop it and go? I wish I could say, “Yes.” But the truth is I usually hem and haw for a while. Perhaps Jesus didn’t really mean I should let THAT go. Maybe I misheard. Maybe it wouldn’t matter if I held on to it for a while.

Peter, Andrew, James, and John saw something in Jesus that they wanted more than what their current lifestyle offered them. Jesus was so compelling to them, they didn’t hesitate to follow.

This is what I want in my life. I want Jesus to be so compelling to me that all He has to do is ask, and I follow.

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark 1:1-15

My goal for this series in the gospel of Mark is to gain deeper, and hopefully new, insights into the heart of Jesus. I want to be transformed by beholding Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). I invite you to join me in this journey. Let’s start with Mark 1:1-15, and together, let’s learn more about Jesus!

Mark opens his gospel at the time of John the Baptist, and he begins by showing that John’s arrival on the scene fulfills the prophecies of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. Connected with this is Jesus’ message in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus’ reference to “the time is fulfilled” is taken from the book of Daniel. Jesus’ arrival on the scene fulfills the Messianic prophecy in Daniel 9. (If you haven’t studied Daniel 9 lately, I strongly encourage you to do so. The precision of that prophecy fulfilled in the life of Jesus will greatly encourage you in the inspiration of the Bible.)

Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son.”

I see two beautiful truths in the fulfillment of these prophecies. First, God is a communicator. He wants to share information with us. He wants us to know what He is doing. Amos 3:7 tells us, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”

Most Bible scholars agree that there are at least 121 Old Testament prophecies foretelling the birth of the Messiah and that Jesus fulfilled every one. The statistics of this are mind blowing. God did not want anyone who cared to know to not know the precise timing of the arrival of the Messiah or the circumstances surrounding His birth.

Jesus said in John 7:17, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” If we truly seek to know the truth, God will share it with us. God knows and loves us very much, and just as much, He wants to be known and loved.

The second truth I see is that God says what He means and means what He says. Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

The prophecies surrounding Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were fulfilled precisely as stated and fulfilled on time. This gives me hope that what God wants to accomplish in and through me will be done.

“The Lord will perfect [perform, fulfill] that which concerns me.” (Psalm 138:8)

How amazing is it that the Creator of the universe, the Ancient of Days, actually wants to communicate with me, not just at me, but with reciprocal conversation – the kind of conversation that builds a relationship. He invites me to come and spend time with Him. I think I will. Will you?

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

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Service and Sacrifice - Mark - Introduction

We’re starting a new series this week on the Gospel of Mark. After our series on The Power of the Word, I want next to explore the Word Himself. What better place to do that than in the Gospels? You may be asking, “Why Mark?”

The Gospel of Mark was written by John Mark. This is not the same John, brother of James, who wrote the Gospel of John, and the Books of I, II, and III John.

Mark’s mother, Mary, was a Jesus follower. She opened her home to church gatherings.

“And when Peter had come to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.’ So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.” (Acts 12:11-12)

Scholars believe we are introduced to Mark by the somewhat funny, self-revealing passage in the story of the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.” (Mark 14:51-52)

None of the other Gospels has this description. We get a glimpse of Mark’s personality here.

The next time we see Mark is Acts 12:

“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.” (Acts 12:25)

Mark had the marvelous opportunity of traveling with Paul and Barnabas and watching these evangelists up close and personal as they preached from town to town. But it did not last long. The group returned to Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were anointed to their work as evangelists. Then the group sailed to Cyprus and had an experience with a false prophet, Bar-Jesus. And then the group sailed to Pamphylia, where, apparently, Mark had had enough.

“Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:13)

I’m sure that was a long journey home for Mark. He had left Jerusalem a relatively short time before in the excitement of being a missionary to unreached people groups. But during the journey, he realized that he wasn’t quite prepared for the travel and sacrifice. He decided early on to return home. This time he would be entering Jerusalem an abject failure.

The good news, though, about Mark’s story is that God still used him after his failure. It is in this place where Mark caught the eye of Peter. Peter definitely knew what it was like to do an absolute face plant in failure. (Luke 22:54-62) Perhaps this why Peter was drawn to Mark. Most scholars agree that Mark’s Gospel was written as Peter dictated so that Peter’s talks could be captured and shared more broadly.

The relationship between Mark and Peter was so close, that Peter referred to him as a son in 1 Peter 5:13:

“She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.”

Mark’s time under the mentorship of Peter was transforming. He matured as he listened to Peter’s firsthand accounts of Jesus. He developed new skills as he served under Peter. And others took notice.

Barnabas and Mark were reunited, and Mark joined Barnabas on a missionary journey, even though that meant a parting of the ways between Paul and Barnabas.

“Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.” (Acts 15:37-40)

Not to worry, Mark’s transformation also caught the eye of Paul, and the two of them later joined in ministry.

“Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11)

Again, why Mark? Mark’s story (and, for that matter, Peter’s story) tells us that even after abject failure, we can still do great things for God. I want to study the life of Jesus through the eyes of these two men who fell to such lows and then rose through the power of the Holy Spirit to have such a positive impact on the world. Their stories give me hope. Perhaps they give you hope as well.

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