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Cold Water, Entry #32

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Matthew 10:42, (context vv. 40-42)

People are thirsty. There is a physical thirst, but there is a spiritual one as well. Perhaps the latter is far worse than the former? I once worked as a street preacher in San Francisco–I led a team of believers who we trained to do church on the street. Once a veteran pastor-friend once told me that he believed a cult a day was born in the City.

People are so spiritually thirsty, and I saw it first hand. I witnessed every weird aberration of truth that floated through the hearts of lost men and women. Their dryness was so sad, I saw over and over that a strange darkness seemed to be embraced by many. At times I knew the broken heart of God, and it hurt me inside. I never asked for it.

We hand out cold water. We give it to His followers without considering if they’re worthy of it. We freely serve it to Jesus’ “little” disciples. Stature in the Kingdom means very little to God, and yet it definitely means everything to us. I believe every Christian will always be a child who receives from the Father. Often this comes through the hands of another child of God. That’s the way it’s suppose to work anyway.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38, ESV

Rewards will be given. They come to anyone who will reach into the life of another. The giver will always be seen by our Lord– everything we do, or don’t do, is lovingly observed by Him. This simple cup of water now has eternal consequences. We can hardly believe it, but it’s true.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

-D.L. Moody

   

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Being Worthy of Jesus, Entry #31

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:37-38 (context, vv. 34-38)

It’s funny, but we never realize that the challenges of following Jesus are never more than the cost of not following Him. The cross leads to death, most certainly. But let’s never forget that there is a resurrection that does happen after that death. We’ll never live unless we die first.

The problem is that we don’t want to die! We cling to our lives with the intensity of a drowning man clinging to a ‘life ring.’ We dare not let go. We dare not simply give up and really call out to Jesus. We hang on to the old life, and as a result, will never, ever experience the new. We believe that we will really drown. We are afraid.

Jesus is demanding from us a preeminent love for Him. A love that ‘nullifies’ anything earthly; a love that surpasses anything “good and proper.” He wants it all! There will be no competition, no contesting our love for Him. Jesus is either all, or He will be nothing.

Yes, there is a “cross.” There will be a awful terrible death to everything we think brings us life. The “disciples” understood crucifixion. A Roman general once did it to the members of a Jewish rebellion. He lined the highways with 2000 crosses, to declare the iron-clad sovereignty of Rome.

Yes, the disciples knew. They remembered the horrifying deaths of so many. They undoubtedly passed by these insurrectionists who hung on these crosses and died. They vividly understood that a cross wasn’t a piece of jewelry, but it meant an awful bloody death of a human being. They knew. The cross was gruesome.

Following Jesus means this kind of death. It ends everything dear to us. It irrevocably ends life as we know it. Life now consists of having a first love, a renouncing everything else that we hold dear. The relationships we thought were good, are now stumbling blocks to the path to our cross.

Yes, there is always a resurrection. Life will be given back to us. But death comes first, and it is incredibly painful. Sometimes we preach and teach, we embrace a “resurrection” life that excludes a cross. We jump right into a Christianity that has circumvented a terrible death. We are now officially, “cross-less Christians.”

“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

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Two Sparrows and a Head of Hair, Entry #30

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31, (context, vv. 26-3).

Jesus communicates this promise to disciples facing the harsh reality of persecution. These verses are embedded in the context of abuse and mistreatment. They are meant to comfort believers when things are wicked and dark. The world does not love the Christian, it really does hate us, and the persecution ranges from a simple ostracism to outright murder.

Sparrows and hair. God is a wonderful mathematician. He constantly keeps track of all that concerns us. Sparrows are fairly insignificant. They really don’t amount to much of anything, their value works out to a measly penny. And when it comes to the hair on our heads, we can rest assured that He has His abacus out.

But the real issue is of the person who is being persecuted. Sparrows and hair become present reminders of the intense concern of the Father. He is deeply aware with the details, those intricate facets of our very modest lives. Everything about us is counted and analyzed. Truly the believer is under God’s microscope, (Psalm 139:1-18). That is a good thing.

These wonderful words, vv. 29-31, are often applied to ‘general’ living. Seldom do we realize that the context is that of persecution. That is their truest use. These simple promises fit quite well when they’re understood from that idea, and it seems that’s when they make the most sense; they comfort us in the deepest part of our spirit when we need it the most.

Sparrows and hair. These are fairly common things, things that we can understand, things that are easily embedded into our thinking. Jesus promises the simple believer mysteries that are truly powerful–ideas that come out of the deep heart of God Himself. These assurances become profound intricacies that directly impact our lives.

So there we have it. There exists a holy math that surrounds the simplest believer. These are straightforward sureties that even children can understand and trust. We discover verses that carry out the “fear not” thought that is part of scripture– promises that are quite wonderful for those who are being pummeled by the darkness.

“So do not fear, I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

 

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All About Serpents and Doves, Entry #29

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues. 

Matthew 10:16-17 (context, vv. 16-24)

We are being sent into a dangerous place. There will be those who hate us, they take us and lead us into courts and they will bring out a whip. The world is not a kind place for believers in Jesus. He warns the disciples of a definite persecution that they face as His disciples. This deep darkness has teeth.

The servant of Jesus will never be “above His master.” Since they called Jesus, “Beelzebul,” they’ll certainly “malign those of His household” (Matthew 10:24-25). We must accept this. At best they will criticize, and at worst they will kill us. We are facing a hostile world who hates our faith.

If a Christian is not having tribulation in the world, there’s something wrong!

And yet Jesus still sends us. We dare not step away from this viciousness. It’s part of the package He gives. We should expect to be treated this way. Jesus warns us honestly of the terrible things we can expect, He does not sugarcoat things. The Lord is well-acquainted with what the world is capable of.

When sheep and wolves meet each other it becomes a slaughter house. And yet there is another side to all of this. We are called to think like a serpent, to have a definite wisdom of all that must be faced, and what we must do to faithfully survive this persecution.

It troubles me somewhat that believers are called to be snakes. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to equate to an innocent faith in Jesus. (Snakes are bad, at least in my thinking). And yet Jesus clearly welds this holy innocence with a wisdom that is very much aware. I suppose that there is a thoughtful balance here, we must find it, and then live it out.

He calls us to vulnerability, most certainly, but mixed into this we need a grasp of being aware; a holy shrewdness (but never a naïvety) that knows how to face the darkness without becoming apostate. We need to use our brains, but be led by our hearts. We are His witnesses, but we must never become His victims.

“It has become a settled principle that nothing which is good and true can be destroyed by persecution, but that the effect ultimately is to establish more firmly, and to spread more widely, that which it was designed to overthrow. It has long since passed into a proverb that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

-Albert Barnes

    

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Doing Jesus’ Work, #28

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

Matthew 10:7-8, (context vv. 5-15)

Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. What a job description for Jesus’ disciples! He truly believes that those who follow Him are ready, and it’s time for them to go to work. I suppose they could keep sitting at Jesus’ feet, just soaking up His teaching, and watching Him do His miracles. But this isn’t what they’re called to do. They’ve sat long enough.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s vital that we absorb His words to us. It’s absolutely critical that we hear His voice and really do find our rest in Him. We must intimately listen to Jesus and be filled with His Spirit. Yet it strikes me that far too many disciples think their life is an inward one; a concentration on personal growth and one’s own spiritual attainment. But I don’t think this is the case.

The disciples must go to work. Jesus ‘commissions’ them to go out and proclaim the ‘Kingdom come.’ The labors of Jesus must be done by these inadequate (and sinful) men. Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. It’s time for them to go out and meet the desperate needs of the world. But stepping out can be a scary thing.

The works that these disciples are to do are truly marvelous. They now have an ability and an anointing to do remarkable things. Jesus is comfortable that His disciples are ready, and yet knows that when they return they will have much to learn from Him. It seems however, that we are waiting for a certain amount of “perfection” before we step out.

Most of us, I suppose, are ‘hamstrung’ by our own sin. We see know our inadequacies and deep weaknesses. Most of the time we feel completely unworthy. Seldom do we think we’re ready to spread the Kingdom news to a needy world. Our own sin, we believe, disqualifies us from ministry to others. It seems Satan is very quick to neutralize us, and to annul the “work” of the Father. He accuses us, and we listen.

We’re overwhelmed by what we see within us, and as a result we seldom see the needs around us.

It seems we shelf His work and replace our faith into some sort of personal rehabilitation program. “When we are finally holy enough, we will hit the streets.” Until then, we will try to get enough personal purity to work His miracles. Commendable I suppose, but I don’t think this is what Jesus intends. I’m convinced the work itself is a vital part of our sanctification.

“Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.”

-Charles Kingsley

Your brother in Jesus,

Bryan

commentbb@yahoo.com

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Laborers Wanted, # 27

Then he said to his disciples, 

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38, (context, vv. 35-38)

The issue here is laborers–this is our work, plain and simple. The fact is that there isn’t enough workers. It’s funny, it seems God is constrained by our prayers–earnest prayers for a harvest to be brought into the barns. But there aren’t enough hands. The harvest will be ruined if help doesn’t come soon.

God must have our help if it’s going to get done. The harvest seems contingent on our prayer life. We decide what is going to happen. Prayer is the work of the authentic believer and our hearts must be for the fields. We are the people who work, who sweat, and get tired. That is our call. That is the true work of discipleship.

Mother Teresa once commented that what we see in front of us is our “Calcutta.” We have got to open our eyes and look, we must see the incredible needs of desperate people that surround us. We must have eternal eyes–God’s eyes. We do our work on behalf of others. I really do believe that it will be ‘sweaty’ prayers that will move the hand of God.

I think ‘prayer’ is the real work in evangelism. Prayer is our effort that gets combined with the Holy Spirit’s great passion of lost souls. Our “earnest” prayer for the harvest will call workers to the fields. Every generation is responsible for their own part of the field.

For some reason God has chosen to limit Himself by our decision to pray. He patiently waits for us to intercede. Everything seems contingent on us, we can point no finger at God, or accuse Him of ignoring the work that must be done. We must make the decision. Evangelism, and missions, is God’s intense passion. He now shares with us this responsibility.

All of Heaven is standing on its tiptoes, waiting to hear our pleas for the lost.

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

-St. Augustine

 

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He Touched the Coffin, #26

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, 

“Do not weep.” 

Then he came up and touched the coffin, and the bearers stood still. And he said, 

“Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Luke 7:13-14 (context, vv. 11-17)

Widows who had no family to support them had it rough. This woman’s husband had died and now her only son was gone. A widow was forced to rely on relatives to meet their needs, but now she had no one. She was all alone and faced a very difficult life. She was vulnerable. And now she saw her only son being carried out of the city to be buried.

The two groups came together. Jesus and His group of disciples were going into Nain and met the funeral procession coming out. Jesus came to the woman as she led the crowd. She was weeping as she walked. I have to believe that His heart met hers.

Jesus response to her was mercy and compassion. I really think His heart was broken for her. He immediately stopped the funeral march and went straight to her to comfort and console. Apparently no one else took up this. Yet Jesus went to her. That really encourages me.

The body had been washed and rubbed with aromatic spices. His hair had been combed and his fingernails had been clipped. He had been carefully wrapped in linen according to Jewish custom. He had been placed in an open funeral bier, to be carried to the grave site.

Nain was an interesting place. Just a few miles away the prophet Elisha had raised the dead by laying on the corpse repeatedly, 2 Kings 4:32-35. Jesus however, raises the dead with a simple sentence. I think that is interesting. It shows that the power of God that resides in the person of Jesus.

God cares for people. Obviously Jesus is a full and complete member of the Trinity. He possesses all power and strength. He is the Word and the Creator of everything in the universe. And yet we see that this all powerful one is full of mercy and compassion. He loves widows and orphans. He loves people, and understands their needs. He rolls up His sleeves and enters into their pain and misery.

I suppose the compassion that Jesus has is the most intriguing part of Matthew 7. God loves people intensely. He intervenes in their lives. He meets needs that no one else can understand. He possesses all power and has an infinite amount of love. He can be trusted to meet every need. After all, He can raise the dead with a few simple words.

“His is a loving, tender hand, full of sympathy and compassion.”

-D.L. Moody

Your brother in Jesus,

Bryan

commentsbb@yahoo.com

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“Centurion” Faith, #25

Jesus said to him, “I come and heal him.”

Matthew 8:7 (context, vv. 5-13)

See the remarkable faith of a Roman centurion. Can we really fathom the deep depth of such belief? He comes to Jesus with a desire for the healing of a servant. He was doing something that a Gentile would never stoop to do. He sought the healing from a homeless itinerant teacher who happened to be a Jew.

This Roman soldier was an enemy. They occupied the land of Israel. If Jesus decided to withhold a healing (to make a point) this was the time! I’m guessing that His refusal would be a good lesson to the disciples, and the watching crowds.

Although the numbers under the command of the centurion varied, he commonly oversaw up to 6,000 men. In battle, they took position in the very front, they were expected to be the first over a wall or through a breach. The centurion was responsible for every aspect of his men. Every centurion of Rome was expected to display ultimate courage on the battlefield.

Typically it took 15-20 hard years to become a centurion. Service was very difficult, living conditions were rough at best. The centurion was not married, he had no family. To be a centurion’s servant you would be responsible for every aspect of his master’s needs. But most of all, the servants became the centurion’s only family. They stayed with him for the duration of his service.

I suppose this explains much. The servant was paralyzed. The text in Matthew says that he was suffering terribly. No doubt the centurion sought out doctors and treatments, but apparently this didn’t help. He was at wit’s end and really didn’t know what to do. I suppose being helpless will often turn people to Jesus.

Jesus seems to have developed a reputation. Those in need, the desperate, sought out His healing power. It seems like that He was now becoming famous for His ability to heal diseases. It’s interesting but scripture clearly shows that Jesus really didn’t want to be this famous. He repeatedly told people not to tell anyone about their healing.

We can see the centurion’s respect for rank and authority.

He explains his own authority over his own soldiers. When he commands he is obeyed without question. He recognizes command and leadership. This man fully understands, and he clearly acknowledges the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,” 

“Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

Matthew 8:10

Emulating this man’s faith is the true task of every believer. We must continually put ourselves under the authority of Jesus. His lordship is to be supreme. His rule over us should never be questioned. He commands everything, and we must obey without any reservation. This new depth of faith must now become our true calling.

A couple of observations. 1) There exists a “quality” kind of faith in comparison to a weaker faith. There seems to be degrees of faith. 2) Quality faith recognizes the true authority and supreme lordship of Jesus. 3) Quality faith can be seen in very strange places. 4) This quality faith is meant to be sought and imitated. It is meant to be recognized by every disciple.

“Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the essential characteristic of our lives.”

-Andrew Murray   

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Show Me the Mercy, Entry #24

Illustration from Wikicommons

“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 

‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’

you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12:6-8 (context, vv. 1-8)

Do we honestly want to see mercy? To give it is much harder than making a sacrifice. Mercy often entails forgiving or helping someone, and that’s usually difficult. We do better by making a religious offering, than having to reach out in love and touch someone we really don’t like. To let someone “off-the-hook” grates us.

Mercy is commonly defined “as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”

Wow. Isn’t this hard sometimes? We really do excel when we try to “punish” those who hurt us, we are experts at this. We ‘automatically’ lash out at those who we feel defy or somehow cross us. I find that I can get quite defensive very fast. And usually that thing is very trivial.

Jesus said to him,

“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

(Matthew 18:22.)

On our own, it seems we just can’t be as compassionate or forgiving like Jesus. We vastly prefer religious duties over forgiveness. Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 x 7, whenever a ‘sinning’ brother asks for leniency, we have to give it. If we forgive, then we’ll be forgiven!

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15

He wants to see our mercy. That outweighs any spiritual sacrifice we might make. One of Jesus’ own beatitudes hits the nail on the head,

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 5:7

We can’t evade this. We may try but He will keep bringing us back to it until we can pass this test, and even then we can anticipate “surprise” tests. That typically kicks us out of a false sense of maturity, and our ‘spiritual’ arrival.

We think we’ve got mercy down pat, and yet He wants to take it deeper still. Mercy for us will always be a spiritual action to a physical situation. And He brings these situations to us, to see what we do, and to reveal what is truly in our hearts at the time.

Sacrifice was a critical definition in the Pharisee’s dictionary, and Jesus more or less destroyed that entire religious concept. Sacrificing without real love, can never be part of a believer’s vocabulary. Jesus wants every disciple to show an outrageous mercy to everyone they meet.

The most miserable prison in the world is the prison we make for ourselves when we refuse to show mercy.

-Warren Wiersbe

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Leaving the Mat Behind, Entry #23

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, 

“Do you want to be healed?

John 5:6 (context, vv. 2-9)

He’d been sick for 38 very long years. On this day he was laying like usual in his spot by the pool of Bethesda. He doesn’t realize it, but he was about to encounter Jesus. His life, as he knows it, is about to be turned upside down.

The question Jesus asks is pointed, and it savagely confronts him–“Do you really want to be healed?” Sometimes the sick, the injured, the handicapped become so aware of their issues that they can’t see any life beyond them. Perhaps Jesus wanted to jolt this man with this very odd question; of course he wants to be healed– doesn’t he?

Jesus clearly knew what was happening.

The Lord knew that this man must make a decision, and healing would only come if he could leave his mat behind. Before we get too hard on him though, we should consider that 38 years is a long, long time to be sick. One thing he had learned over time was that having any kind of hope was a very dangerous thing. In these many years he had worn out lots of mats.

Apparently, an angel would come and stir the waters; the first one who somehow jumped in would be healed. Over time the pool became the gathering place where there laid “a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (v. 3.) Someone once said that ‘misery loves company.’ The odds for healing however, were definitely not in their favor.

I’m somewhat curious, not so much with the ‘angel/pool’ thing, but with the Lord passing by a crowd of sick people. Jesus didn’t stop and just wholesale heal them, but instead He makes a bee-line to where this man lay. Why did He do this? Perhaps an encounter with Jesus was far too radical for the crowds; perhaps they weren’t ready. IDK.

The question Jesus asks does seem strange– “Of course he wants to be healed.” And yet the Lord (and this man) had to know for sure. It really isn’t a question of Jesus’ healing power–it is however, an issue with one’s desire to be made whole, and then to leave his mat behind.

A disclaimer though. People will often talk about having enough faith to be healed, and that’s well and good, but what about having faith to continue to be sick; day after endless day? Will we continue to believe in Him no matter what happens to us? I do wonder about this sometimes.

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, In a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear.”

-John Newton

Scroll down for older entries.

 

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Waiting for Our Bridegroom, Entry #22

Carmen Puscas Ministries

“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Matthew 9:15 (context vv. 14-17)

I detest fasting, I really do. I blame this spiritual deficiency on the fact I’m quite slender and tall and need all the calories I can get. I don’t think that this passes muster though. But I do it anyway. God forgives me but I suppose I’m missing out on something quite wonderful though. (I hope you’re different.)

Jesus makes an announcement. He intends to leave them behind. The disciples will ‘fast’ instead of partying. They will begin to do this with the understanding that He will return for them.

True fasting will clarify the spiritual.

We begin to understand things that we have missed up to now. When we discipline ourselves like this we begin to see and discern the real and the eternal. Fasting is much like a ‘telegraph line’ to a future glory. We are learning to communicate with the throne room and it teaches us to ‘listen.’

We are being prepared for something quite grand. If we start to see this particular discipline as a way of bringing us clarity, we’ll find it much easier and more rewarding. Fasting is hard for most of us, and maybe we need a refresher course. (Just writing about fasting is easier than doing it, trust me.)

When we start to fast we’ll begin to see reality. We can visualize the return of the true King, who is now setting up our future home. We’ll begin to walk, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Bible world is the real world.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Revelation 21:2

 

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Let’s Follow the Master, Entry # 21

Luca Giordano
Naples; 1634-1705
The Calling of St. Matthew, c. 1685
oil on canvas; 78.5 x 100.5 inches

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 

“Follow me.” 

And he rose and followed him.”

Matthew 9:9

Another “tax collector.” (Why won’t Jesus ever learn?) It really does seem that He has a definite preference for the scum and the outcast. For some very odd reason that’s the sort of person He likes. But really, do we dare question His wisdom in this? Do we think we have a right to pass judgement on Jesus’ choices?

I have to think that Jesus is showing us His deep fondness for the ‘ungodly.’ Tax-collectors, egads!!!! I don’t really understand, until I consider my own ‘wretched’ life. Until Jesus comes to me, calling me, I will continue to set in my dreary booth, taking money from other dreary people.

So what does it really mean to really follow Jesus? I think of Matthew, a wicked man who has no qualms about betraying his people for money. It’s always been odd to me, that Matthew’s name meant “pure.” (What were his parents thinking? Maybe they grasped his future destiny as an apostle? IDK.) But I am certain that Matthew’s call to follow meant he had to leave something ‘behind.’

We follow Jesus. We’ve accepted the call that we must turn away from our past life. We’ve left behind all the money and just walked away from our table. We understand that we can’t bring it along; we have renounced its claim on us.

Following Him means taking up our “cross,” and everything that it might entail. We really do need to leave it all behind. What a deal, huh?

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Mark 8:34

Trying to follow,

Bryan

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

-Dietrich Bonehoeffer

    

I’m at commentsbb@yahoo.com or message me at https://www.facebook.com/bryan.lowe

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Eating With Sinners, # 20

Courtesy of Holy Spirit Catholic Church

“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, 

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:11-13 (context vv. 10-13)

God is not against us because of our sin. He is with us against our sin. We barely believe this. It doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s one of those pure and unadulterated grace ideas and somehow that just might confuse us. It’s counter-intuitive to everything we know; and it’s the tragic way of the religious world.

Jesus is now sitting and eating with sinners! Can we even grasp how amazing this is? His guests at the table were the awful–the nasty dregs of a nice proper society. Tax collectors who had renounced Judaism for Rome. There were the sinners who were the unacceptable. (Even the whores and the drunks showed up!) Can’t He do any better than this?

It seems to me we’re living in this world ‘blind and dumb’ to what grace really is. Our legal analysis seems right on, but we have to admit we’ll sometimes operate under certain dictates of a ‘comfortable’ propriety instead. “What can we do to merit God’s love and become acceptable?” How can we truly fellowship with a God who is completely holy?

We see (or read) of the Lord who chooses to fellowship with the ungodly rather than the religious. That shakes us to the core, as it should. He loves associating with unacceptable people. That alone should floor us-and maybe scare us too.

The religious Pharisees found ‘grace’ to be unacceptable. They walked and breathed legalism. Keeping the Law was their way to be acceptable in God’s eyes. And they were now angry, or maybe somewhat mystified, by Jesus’ incredible desire to associate with evil people. But they’re misunderstanding the grace and mercy that resides in God’s heart.

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.

–Anne Lamott

Do we seriously understand the kindness and grace of Jesus? Does it ‘saturate’ your mind and heart? Are you completely ‘marinated’ in God’s outrageous love for you, the ugly? Think about this; ‘Could it be that pharisees are still alive and well today?’

Eating with sinners. We read that the Pharisees objected. It strikes me that these guys were trying to attack Jesus by ‘splitting’ the disciples from Him. They wanted them to question His actions. This is Satan’s strategy.”Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” ‘Why’ seems to be the voice of the disbelieving and ‘ungraceful.’

Mercy is always better that any “sacrifice” we can make. Does this bother you? (It should.)

The ‘healthy’ don’t need any help. No doctor’s appointments are necessary. And yet Jesus chooses out the sinners” instead. You need to understand this, to be called like this is the ultimate gift. Grace for the ungraceful is unreal. It seems oddly unnatural. And yet the Father’s grace is now waiting for you. You must believe this.

What are you struggling with? What ‘distracts you? What are you trying to do to be ‘righteous’ in God’s eyes? Do you really believe that He desperately wants to sit down and have a meal with you, just as you are?

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.

-Anne Lamott

(Sorry about all the Anne Lamott quotes, I’m on a weird roll I think.)

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Mercy for My Sin, Entry #19

“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,” 

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

Matthew 9:2 (context vv. 1-8)

This man needed a touch. But more importantly he had to know that he was forgiven. It seems to me that this was his real need. Forgiveness must come first and foremost. And Jesus’ spoke directly at him. Jesus completely released him. There were no preconditions. Only the faith of his friends (v. 2.) Interesting.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

The religious leaders are very disturbed. Their analysis of this man’s forgiveness was a frontal attack on Jesus’ right to acquit sin. They said nothing, and the miracle really wasn’t even acknowledged. These leaders were in sharp contrast to those who witnessed this first-hand.

The text says that “the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (v. 8.)

The religious leaders determined that only God Himself could forgive; to let someone ‘off-the-hook’ like this. They said nothing (perhaps they were feeling ‘out numbered? IDK.)

To forgive sins is God’s exclusive prerogative. No man can release another man from sin. It has the Lord’s exclusive territory. And yet Jesus did precisely that to the chagrin of the ‘legalism’ that was running rampant in the hearts of the religious leaders .

I’m of the opinion that we’re all suffering a certain paralysis of sorts. Each of us have issues that cripple us. We each are sick, and we desperately need Jesus’ touch. “None of us is righteous” (Romans 3:10.) Perhaps Matthew 5:3-4 explains our walk knowing that we all need to be touched.

It seems that we are all dead men walking, separated from God.

The healing of this man was astonishing in itself. To miraculously heal was certainly profound. It doesn’t happen everyday. And yet these scribes, who were thinking about what Jesus said, called it “blasphemy.” They could not see the miracle that freed this man’s great burden.

“The high heaven covereth as well tall mountains as small mole hills, and mercy can cover all. The more desperate thy disease, the greater is the glory of thy physician, who hath perfectly cured thee.”

-Abraham Wrigh

 

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Be Clean, Entry #18

And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, 

“I will; be clean.” 

And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 8:3 (context vv. 1-4)

He lives completely devastated. Leprosy was more than physical, it had spiritual consequences. He probably had been living as an outcast for many years. When he got anywhere close to the healthy they would shout out that he was “unclean.” They were afraid of him. He was the consummate ‘boogeyman.’

Lepers were excluded from any temple services. They could never ‘sacrifice.’ They wore their sin like a heavy coat, and they were destined to wear it for the rest of their sad lives. The Jews regarded them as cursed by God; never ever to be touched by anyone. They were the damned.

Can you even imagine the awful ugliness that life had given him?

To be clean was only a wonderful dream. It evaporated when he woke; it was never, ever realized. His disease ‘stuck’ to him permanently. (He must’ve realized that it was forever and ever.) He was cursed by God to live alone, and die damned.

It throughly amazes me that Jesus reached out and touched him. Most likely he hadn’t known any human contact for many years. I think the Lord knew and understood this man’s biggest need. To be touched was a bonanza, to be healed was ‘heaven.’

What sin has hypnotized you? What ugliness degrades your spirit? Look to Him (and His mercy) and let Him touch you deep inside. The Law insists that contamination would spread to the person who touched the unclean, but Jesus being ‘clean’ passed on His wholeness.

That’s the kind of God I serve.

“Give up the struggle and the fight; relax in the omnipotence of the Lord Jesus; look up into His lovely face and as you behold Him, He will transform you into His likeness. You do the beholding–He does the transforming. There is no short-cut to holiness.”

–Alan Redpath

 

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Preaching With a Purpose, Entry #17

“But he said to them, 

“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

Luke 4:43 (context, vv. 42-44)

God directed preaching extends the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus understands this and embraces a calling from the Father to communicate God’s rule in the heart and souls of people. He publicly acknowledges that this was now His ministry and purpose. This was the reason He came for us. He was sent!

Jesus understands that when the Gospel is combined with the Father’s intentional purpose it develops into a true understanding of what He is looking for in our lives. Perhaps it’s the only thing that can. He obeys and the world is completely changed.

Anointed preaching accomplishes Kingdom purposes.

Understanding the Kingdom takes humility and repentance. The message of Jesus is not a ‘given,’ It requires a solid reaction that will take the listener deeper than he has ever gone before. The gospel message must be understood through a ‘broken’ life. It has zero impact when the heart is hard. We are teflon.

Preaching this “good news” is the only thing that can pierce the hard shell of the human heart. I believe that His purpose requires a commitment on the preacher as well as the listener. It demands obedience. It requires a repentant faith.

Jesus seems to agree.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

― Francis of Assisi

 

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Peter’s New Job, Entry #16

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“And Jesus said to Simon, “

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

 “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

Luke 5:10-11, (context vv. 4-11)

They were business men, sort of. These fisherman scraped out a living catching fish at night (with lanterns of course) and selling their catch to the merchants of Galilee by day. They worked very hard, fishing and always it seems, having to mend their nets. Plenty of back-breaking work and not much sleep.

Simon Peter seems to be their “foreman.” They probably had a collection of 2-3 boats that worked together and they ‘pooled’ their efforts to work the Sea of Galilee and go where the fishing would be best. They wanted to make money. That was their motivation.

But along comes Jesus, and their lives are about to be dramatically “turned-upside-down.”

Much of this account of Jesus’ calling these fishermen to become His disciples mystifies me. (I really challenge you to read the full account in Luke 5, and make your own judgments. The account is pretty straight forward and yet their is plenty of room for interpretation.)

Simon Peter is about to be schooled in the very first lesson of discipleship, and he doesn’t yet realize it.

Jesus commands them to throw out their nets again. But it’s daytime, and you don’t catch fish then, and besides they’ve already had a long hard night. They have already worked very hard.

This ‘crazy’ rabbi insists they throw out their nets. If they obey Him in this, they’ll catch a catch. Peter is a bit hesitant. They had fished all night. Zero. Zilch. Somehow I think Jesus had designed it that way.

At Jesus’ word the net is thrown out. And they catch such a catch that they filled up two boats, up to the brim. So full as a matter of fact, that both boats were on the verge of sinking. Peter was astonished. They had never ever seen anything like it!

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 

This is Peter’s first step. He saw it, he broke down, and he fell at his Lord’s feet. He was completely undone. Kneeling on the fish, he saw who he was, a sinner extraordinaire. Peter realized then that he was a man who didn’t deserve forgiveness. He wanted Jesus to leave him alone.

Perhaps this is the first lesson we must take to be His witness to a watching world. If we want to reach those who are terribly lost, we must ‘discover’ our own brokenness.

Peter would reflect on his own weaknesses and ‘pen’ a letter to the Church: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:6

We had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart should be the distinguishing feature of the disciple.

-Andrew Murray

 

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A Father’s Love, Entry #15

“Jesus said to him, 

“Go; your son will live.” 

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”

John 4:50, (context vv. 46-54).

How do you quantify the love a father has for his son? This nobleman had absolutely nowhere to go, his son was going to die and he could do nothing to stop it. He was half out of his mind with grief and desperation. There wasn’t a thing he could do to save his son. He was going to watch his boy die; and he was powerless to do anything to prevent it.

He finds Jesus and begs for a miracle. He isn’t proud or arrogant, all of that was set aside a long time ago. He’s no longer the king’s official, he is now a very earnest father who is begging for Jesus’ touch on his very sick son. It’s funny how that happens, God uses everything to break through our defenses and touch our lives.

The incredible love this man has drives him to Jesus. He cries desperately out to the Lord and we see him shamelessly begging for his son’s life. He remains insistent even after Jesus seems to turn him down. He continues to hang on to a very feeble hope that Jesus will relent. The nobleman has no other options–Jesus is his last chance.

Jesus chooses to reach out and heal the boy, even at a distance.

“God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son…” (John 3:16). How do we fathom this kind of love? Can we even imagine trading your son’s life for a bunch of proud rebels who detest you? We so easily we forget the incredible pain and loss involved in this act of redemption. Our Father decided His Son must die for you and I. We are criminals, and yet He loves us enough to sacrifice Himself to ‘heal’ us.

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.”

1 John 3:1, MSG 

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Soul Food, Entry #14

“But he said to them, 

“I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

John 4:32, (context vv. 28-35)

Jesus states that He draws His strength from the Father’s will. His “food” is exclusively His own (not the ‘disciples’). He gains power from doing all that God is asking Him to do. Jesus’ personal strength comes from accomplishing or fulfilling that which the Father reveals as His will.

Why can’t we be more like Jesus in this? We have the daily option (and it’s indeed ‘optional’) to do the things that the Holy Spirit has laid out for us. Will we fulfill His will or do we decide to go our own way? What is our “food?” Where does our strength lie?

The Spirit reveals what God’s will is to our particular path. The decision to do the things He has laid out for us is necessary for us to grow up, to advance His kingdom, and to reveal God’s glory to a watching world. This is what we have been created to be. This is our truest calling.

His purposes are to be our food. Doing God’s will can be optional, and a decision has to be made ‘moment-by-moment’ and every single day. Our precious time with Him, through prayer and the Word, quite often will lay out the direction we’re to take. We definitely need to hear His voice, that is critical. Becoming attentive and aware to His purposes reveal a true intimacy with the Lord.

Doing God’s will is the exquisite adventure of a faith that is really alive. Our witness blossoms when we decide that we will obey Him. I don’t think it needs to be dull or tedious. It’s the grand call of the authentic believer. Doing the things He wants for us is to be our “food” for each day. His will is our ‘nourishment.’

I believe this is what Jesus was teaching His disciples.

“If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

John 15:10, CSB

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Quenching Our Thirst, Entry #13

“Jesus answered her, 

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:10, (context 4:7-42)

A rusty pail and a very old well. A woman comes to draw out some water from a well dug by Jacob, a patriarch from the pages of Genesis. I believe she was a ‘scarred’ person, she had been married to five men, and she really hadn’t decided to marry #6.

Noon wasn’t the norm, it seems she purposefully waited until the coast was clear. She avoided any contact with others. She would go in the heat of the day. But really deep down, she was ashamed of herself, and grieved over how she had destroyed her life.

She didn’t count on meeting someone at the well, much less a Jewish man who was tired and weary and waiting for a cool drink. She was even more surprised when Jesus spoke to her, that wasn’t proper. A Samaritan woman with a checkered past conversing with a holy Jewish teacher. On heard of.

Jesus waited for her to come, she has an appointment to keep with the second person of the Trinity who was waiting by this well.

“Living water,” how quickly we zoom through this phrase. We seldom stop to consider that what Jesus was offering her was ‘alive.’ It was water infused with life itself. It was water with eternal vitality over sickness, sin or death. When He talks about “living water,” Jesus is referring to Himself.

This particular incident with the woman at the well became the entry point for the ‘good news’ to come to the entire village. Living water would quench the thirst of this backwater Samaritan town.

“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off. When someone is healed or released from a life-controlling bondage, everyone takes notice.”

-Jim Cymbala

  

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Nicodemus Finally Understands, Entry #12

Nicodemus and the New Birth

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3 (context vv. 3-15).

He came at night. The questions are burning inside deep inside him and he desperately wants to understand. Nicodemus is a “ruler of the Jews,” (V. 1) and yet it’s not enough. He is unsure and must speak to Jesus, alone and I suppose, “off the record.” Yet he is the rare someone who feels ‘compelled’ to seek God, and will look just about anywhere for an answer.

Nicodemus is a pharisee, “a pure one,” and a teacher of the Jewish people, and yet he is bereft of real answers. He is looking for the missing piece, or maybe something much more then that, but he has to know that it is real and true. There are too many fakes out there after all. He has to know, so he goes to Jesus. Nicodemus needs to understand.

A little baby in a crib, brought to life by a mother’s painful love. It is to this kind of birth that our Lord points to as the very beginning of spiritual life. The real answer to Nicodemus’ questions do not involve ‘rehabilitation’ but rather transformation. Eternal life will not come by personal effort or by ‘working’ for it.

It’ll take nothing less than a new birth to change a person. Yet somehow Nicodemus is confused by this. He’s trying very hard to “connect the dots” but his mind can’t comprehend the truths Jesus is saying. (A new birth? You’ve got to be kidding.) But Jesus isn’t joking and He isn’t purposefully making it hard for Nicodemus.

New births aren’t possible unless God intervenes. Being freshly birthed is a far cry from being rehabilitated. One is definitely God’s gift of salvation, and the other comes by human sweat and effort. We must understand that we can do nothing that will make us acceptable to God, we can only accept the new birth that He offers us.

It comes not through our effort, but by a repentant faith. We must become spiritually resurrected by believing in His Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to give us real life. We start completely over it seems, radically receiving a spiritual life. Righteousness doesn’t come through sweaty, ‘grit your teeth’ determination, but by faith alone.

“If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

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The Doves in the Temple, Entry #11

“And he told those who sold the pigeons, 

“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 

John 2:16, (context 13-17)

The temple was meant to be a place where people could seek and find God. It was meant to be a place of seeking, of sacrifice, and a place of worship. It had no other purpose other than linking man to God. It wasn’t architecture, it was ‘reconciliation.’ The temple was God’s plan of making a way for sinners to engage Him.

Along the line somehow it became corrupted. Unscrupulous man had a way figured to make money off of pilgrims. The temple required temple currency, hence the money-changers who made a tidy little profit. The birds, lambs and bulls were suddenly provided to the worshipers as a convenient way to ‘sacrifice.’ (That made it easier if you had the cash to spend.)

“So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins.”

John 2:15

Was this wrong? Did Jesus really make a “whip?” Did He really flip over tables like some sort of ‘religious’ brawl from some old western movie? I have to believe He did do this. Chapter 2:17 explains things like this:

“The disciples then remembered that the Scriptures say, “My love for your house burns in me like a fire.”

Jesus loved God’s house, at least for what it was designed for at the beginning. (Some translations use the word, “zeal.”) God’s heart is for fellowship with man. He desperately wants to engage us, to bring us directly into the “holy place of the Holies.”

He wants us there for the companionship. He seeks “friends.”

The doves? Jesus never hurt them. His anger wasn’t directed at them, but rather at the humans who made the birds available to be sacrificed. The Lord didn’t focus His displeasure at those fine feathered ones in the cage, rather He commanded that they be removed from the temple. No whip was used here, only understanding of the need for a kinder approach. (They’re just little birds after all.)

He really wants to fellowship with you. He will do whatever it takes to remove things that should’ve never been there in the first place. He ‘discerns’ the issues, and is very gentle, not an ounce more than is necessary will be applied to your life. He is supremely wise and astonishingly kind.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

-Francis de Sales

   

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Simple Jars of Wine, Entry #10

Jesus said to the servants,

“Fill the jars with water.” 

And they filled them up to the brim.”

John 2:7, (context, John 2:1-11) 

Turning water into wine? Easy, right? But let’s think for a moment. Molecules have to be drastically moved and profoundly altered, changed completely. They are totally transformed into something they were not. Chemistry says “impossible,” Jesus says “watch Me!”

We are the jars, clay and water. We stand in the hallway, and wait to be filled. But when Jesus comes to our lives, we are transformed. Our watery life becomes full of precious wine. It is our own personal miracle, we are totally transmuted, radically changed.

We are no longer water, but we have become wine. And not just any old wine, but the very best (v. 10). But why does Jesus do this? He is love, this is how He has chosen to operate.

It’s His primary motive (John 3:16,) “God so loved the world…”

But secondly, it is all for His “glory.” He declares His magnificence in us, puny little “clay” pots.

We sit in the hallway, just waiting for His touch. We bring nothing and become ‘everything.’ We are mere water only, until He speaks. Nothing, but now everything. And not just second-rate–but the very best.


“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Romans 12:2

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Catching Men, Entry #9

“The Morning of the Fisherman,” Valentina Kostadinva, oil

“And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon,

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Luke 5:10

Fear is an ugly thing, it turns men into timid cowards who cannot really trust God. Simon Peter is promised courage. Throughout his life this will be a constant battle for him. It seems like Simon Peter will always struggle with what people will think about him. He is ‘crippled’ and he needs Jesus to intervene. And He does.

I remember Jody and I were sent out by a pastor to do “door-to-door” evangelism. I was terrified. We knocked on a door and then I sort of freaked out, I left her on the porch and hid behind a tree. Witnessing scared me. She shared Jesus while I ran away. How ‘Peter-like’ I am.

“Catching men” is a reference to Peter’s occupation as a fisherman. Jesus speaks so Peter will understand. He expresses evangelism in a way that describes the work of the Kingdom. Fishing describes the main task of the believer. All too often we’re ‘fixed’ on self-improvement, and our vision becomes blurred. Evangelism is to be our work.

“Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.”

-Elton Trueblood

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20/20 Vision, Entry #8

“The Calling of the 12,” from Orthodoxwiki

He said to them, “Come and you will see.”

John 1:39 (context, 1:31-51)

The calling of the 12 was one of the more remarkable events in history. Some experienced amazing things–Nathanael for instance (1:47-48). But I suppose the most astonishing thing was how the disciples left everything to follow in the steps of God.

“Come” is an awesome word. Jesus wants these men to follow Him. He wants them to ‘travel’ with Him. Jesus deeply desires that these new disciples see for themselves the things of God. He wants them to engage in the work and experience the Kingdom first-hand.

“You will see.” There is a need for people who can really look at things and ‘see’ what is real. Today it seems the world is living in a fantasy. There are very few who can understand things as they really are. For many the ways and presence of God are never real. The world never understands what the Kingdom is all about. They are truly blind.

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A Physician With Power, Entry #7

“And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’”

Luke 4:23, (in context, 4:25-27)

Jesus does heal, the Gospels attest to that fact. Generations since then have been beneficiaries of a ministry that alleviates pain and disease. Many have been touched, and many more will encounter Him in this way. We may carry our difficulties poorly, but if He chooses to heal us that is His prerogative. Some will be dramatically healed, others will not. Jesus chose to pass by dozens before He encountered the paralytic.

We cannot manipulate Him. Sometimes we use our faith like a tool to try to get what we want, but He decides, not us. Sometimes we think that healing comes to the really ‘spiritual,’ as if it were an attainment of our faith alone. In the Gospels we see Jesus initiating and alleviating disease, and I believe that. But I also know that He passes by many faithful believers who still endure pain.

Jesus’ reputation has grown. The synagogue leaders in Nazareth have heard of Him, of His phenomenal teaching and His earth-shaking miracles. When He stands to read from the scroll every eye is fixed on Him. In verse 22 the leaders speak very highly of Him, but a few verses later they’re filled to the brim with anger and want to throw Him off a cliff.

Human beings are fickle creatures. We seldom realize our inconsistencies and our erratic behavior. Many wonder why their faith doesn’t work– but what about the faith needed to remain sick? Doesn’t it work both ways? It seems that it also takes significant faith to follow Jesus when we remain terribly ‘unhealed.’

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

-James H. Aughey

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Completing Scripture, Entry #6

“And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:21

Jesus initiates the conversation, as He usually does. He is talkative without being irritating or tedious. “He began to say” is just the start, and He intends to penetrate our defenses with His words. As ‘hard-headed’ as we are, we desperately need a spiritual jack-hammer. And Jesus promises to keep His word.

The Bible is ‘God-breathed. It isn’t like any other book, it discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). There is nothing–absolutely nothing that remotely compares to God’s Word. It is the ultimate authority in the entire universe. By the Lord’s eternal Word all of creation came into existence. By His speech He changes our calloused hearts to be like His.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” 

John 1:1-3 

When Jesus stands up and reads, He ‘bonds’ His ministry to these scrolls. Both He and God’s words are fully connected with each other. He ‘fulfills’ everything that is written down in ink. The authority of Christ and the power of the precepts are fully cemented together. God’s wondrous work is truly seamless.

“I will answer for it, the longer you read the Bible, the more you will like it; it will grow sweeter and sweeter; and the more you get into the spirit of it, the more you will get into the spirit of Christ.”

-William Romaine


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The Spirit is on Me, Entry #5

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

The Trinity is seen at work redeeming man in these two verses–the Spirit anoints, Jesus proclaims, God pours out His favor. The ‘three-in-one’ is active and moving, and He is incredibly involved in each one’s salvation. This quotation is taken directly from Isaiah 61:1 and it completely defines the ministry of the messiah.

The focal point here is on the needy and desperate. The poor, captives, blind and all of the oppressed become the chosen ones of Jesus’ ministry. His specialty is the neglected and the needy, that is His work and I believe that those are still the specific ones He has His eye on all along. He mind hasn’t changed in 2000 years.

The Holy Spirit is critically needed to do this work. If Jesus needed to be consecrated for this task, how very much more do we. The message is always one of healing, the needy and the beaten down. That really must be our M.O. We must do the work in God’s way, with God’s power. We must be energized to reach the very lost with the presence of God. This is His heart cry.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

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Jesus Begins His Public Ministry, Entry #4

and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15

Time. We are all on a definite schedule and affected by its relentless pace. Jesus now declares that His moment has finally come. It seems that the Creator of time is subject to the pace that it unfolds. He is precisely on schedule for the ultimate event of all of history. It all begins at this moment.

Jesus now officially recognizes the start of “the kingdom of God.” The Jewish people have sought this moment, they have looked for it and waited. But now they must respond to His message of repentance and faith. They have to make the decision, they must settle themselves into God’s purpose for their lives. There is no other way.

Our response to that good news is repentance and faith. Both are absolutely critical to really become a Christian believer. Both situate us to the certain place where we can receive from God. We can’t just ‘admire’ His person and message. Far too many people make this mistake. Instead we must vigorously respond to all that He says; we absolutely need to make a decision. We have to change. There is no other way.

“A sinner can no more repent and believe without the Holy Spirit’s aid than he can create a world.”

-Charles Spurgeon

  

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Tempted by the Devil, Entry #3

“Christ in the Wilderness,” Briton Riviere

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God are’”

(Matthew 4:4)

God Words are equated to bread, which is emblematic of every kind of food. Bread signifies life. Jesus addressing the tempter, places the Word of God as the final Sustianer of life itself. By His declaration He establishes what is real and necessary to every disciple.

The Word of God is the food that the believer needs. Without the promises of God we “starve” spiritually. We all must have what God is speaking, all that “the mouth of God” wants to share with us.

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 parallels Matthew 4:1–4. When Jesus is tempted three times, He quotes exclusively from the book of Deuteronomy each time. We see Him strengthening His calling by using the truth found in the OT, He establishes His ministry using the Law of Moses.

“I will abundantly bless her provisions;
    I will satisfy her poor with bread.”

(Psalm 132:15)

(See also: Matthew 3:15, 4:7, 4:10)

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Jesus’ Baptism, Entry #2

“But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Matthew 3:15

The Jordan River is quite remarkable. It stretches from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, a distance of 156 miles. In the Bible it is the scene of several miracles, from the OT we see Joshua who amazingly crossed it to get to the Promised Land to the baptism of Jesus by John.

The water of the Jordan river is used today for some christening of some royals. It is commonly believed that it holds significant properties that enable a king or queen to rule over their country.

The baptism of Jesus is of major significance. But I suppose the descent of the Holy Spirit, like a dove (and a voice) establishes Jesus’ future ministry. It seems that what happened there instilled in Jesus the strength for His future. We see the next event will be His temptation by Satan (event #3 in this blog) and it really seems that He now has the power to overcome the enemy.

We all need to be touched by God’s Spirit to overcome darkness, and often our baptism becomes the foundation of that which He ‘arranges’ this work. Jesus declared that it would “fulfill all righteousness.” That mystifies me, but it seems to connect with His humanity. He has chosen to connect with people in this special way.

“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior.”

 -Max Lucado

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