Fringe benefits. We’ve all heard the term and know basically what they are: things above and beyond basic compensation from an employer. It can be an extensive list that includes paid time off, health insurance, profit sharing and retirement plans, to name just a few.
Where’s this heading, you may be wondering. I’m glad you asked!
I was reading from the Gospel of Mark earlier, and came upon this passage describing Jesus in his travels: And wherever he went, into villages, or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:56 NRSV)
There you have it! The benefit of touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment. People had heard the stories of miraculous healings being done by this Jesus and in their desperation were hoping to just touch what he was wearing that they might experience a miracle too. And the gospel accounts tells us of many such folks who received healing from Jesus. He sometimes laid a hand on the sick or at other times and over a distance simply spoke a word and healing happened.
As wonderful as these accounts are, they truly represent only the fringe of Jesus’ ministry and purpose. He healed because of his compassion toward the hurting. Yet the driving force behind any of the miracles attributed to Jesus was to point people toward God. Physical healings are great, but to the best of my knowledge everyone restored by Jesus still eventually died a natural death.
None of what I’ve said is meant to minimize the wonder of Jesus’ actions, both then and now. My point is this: supernatural healing is a fringe benefit; of having faith.
If you have faith, you have already received the greatest healing you can ever get: You know the love of God! And the news gets even better: Faith is not something you and I have to develop, it is the gift of God! We are not given faith as a result of our good efforts or stiving for perfection. Rather, God knows we need it and that we are incapable of truly developing it on our own.
Enter Jesus, the Great(est) Physician! No matter how far modern medicine progresses, it will never attain the ability to cure us on an eternal level. And that’s ok, because Jesus has already seen to that for everyone. In so doing, our Savior has provided the vehicle of faith for us to grab on to. And we don’t have to reach for the edge of the Savior’s garment because through the blessing and activity of the Holy Spirit we have 24/7 access to the Lord.
So don’t be satisfied with touching just the fringe, but wrap yourself up from head to toe in the love of God; a love that is for all, always, forever and ever! Amen.
Just a quick scan of the Bible reveals that God has quite the record of providing real food on a miraculous scale to sustain the body. In the beginning of Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel you can read about one of those times as Jesus fed over 5,000 people from just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread with leftovers that filled 12 baskets!
Jesus had worked this mighty miracle as a setting for a plain talk on His true mission in the world. “I am the bread of life.” By saying it that way, ‘I am,” Jesus was identifying himself with God.
While it is true that Jesus spent much time ministering to people’s physical needs, the real purpose of His coming into the world was to save people’s souls.
Hearing this, the people began to lose interest. As long as there is free food, great; keep it coming. Be our King and feed us every day like the Israelites in the desert under Moses. Jesus’ first audience were thinking only of their own physical wants and needs. How many of us still do this too?
More than just another meal
Jesus addresses those grumbling as He points out that the manna, (in verses listed at the top) miracle that it was, did not provide the eternal ‘food’ that we all need. After all, their ancestors ate it and still died in the desert. Jesus is so much more than just another meal.
The first of the I am statements in John’s Gospel
Jesus, “I am the Bread of Life.” What does that say to you? The original audience had trouble processing that claim. What do you do with it?
Maybe before we examine that, a more basic question needs to be addressed first: Who is Jesus to you?
Is He: a cosmic talisman you call on when you are in trouble?
Some far-off or aloof deity/someone you choose to keep at arm’s length?
Is He your Savior (the A answer!). Yet the text today seems to be telling us that the Lord can be something in addition to Savior. Please remember that Jesus is salvation, plus or minus nothing.
Jesus: “I am the bread of life.” (twice) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Is He the Bread of Life to you?
When Jesus says you will never hunger or thirst again, obviously He does not mean physically. Rather, Jesus is telling us all that believing in Him brings with it a satisfaction that cannot be removed or replaced. It has been said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled perfectly by Jesus. That hole is what gets filled when you take the Bread of Life. Jesus brings to you the wholeness that only He can.
Remember, Jesus is not just another meal
Jesus does not want only to help us sustain life. No, rather He is offering all humanity eternal life! You, me and the whole world. This is God’s grace as it is poured out to us each day. John 10:10b records Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have live; and have it to the full.” Jesus has come to save and to have the life He offers to the full.
We then must use each day’s grace for the purpose God gives it; that it nourishes us spiritually. All we have to do is merely acknowledge our need and accept what the Lord is offering daily. God knows your needs. Do you trust Him to supply that which you need, even if you do not understand it or can explain it?
Waiting for something can be quite difficult. The more important that something is to us, the harder the wait usually. Maybe it is that long-awaited get-away vacation or the opportunity to reunite with an old friend. Perhaps, like often happens here in the Northeast US, the waiting for warmer temperatures seemingly takes forever. The wait for these types of things, hard as they can be, hold the promise of something positive when they do arrive.
But what about the waiting when the outcome or result is not known? I am thinking know about those of us who spend time praying for the healing of family, friends, co-workers, etc. We pray, seeking God’s mercy for these folks, but often we see little to no change for the better.
If this describes you, may today’s short blog entry serve as encouragement for you to hang in there. Reading Chapters 3 and 4 from the Acts of the Apostles got me to thinking about this. In Chapter 3, Peter and John meet a man crippled from birth. This person is carried to the gate of the temple courts to beg for food or money every day. Peter, when he has the crippled man’s attention says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6 NIV). Instantly, this man is given the ability to walk.
This healing was instant when it happened, but it was a long time coming for we find out later in Chapter 4, verse 22 that the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. (NIV)
Here is another example of an instant healing that was a long time coming. Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the religious feasts when He encountered a man hoping to be healed by the stirred up water at the Sheep Gate. The Bible says of this man, One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5 NIV). John then tells of the conversation Jesus has with this individual and then of the Lord’s speaking a word of healing over him. As He does, this long-term physically handicapped person is instantly healed.
These are just two examples of people who had to wait what had to seem to them like forever before they got relief. But God did move on their behalf.
Like them, we are all captive to the passing of time as we understand it. God is not. He moves in perfect ways, in perfect timing, to His perfect will. This is of course far from our grasp.
So what are we to do? My encouragement is to hang in there! The Scriptures are full of examples of God’s faithfulness. His love and mercy are evident on nearly every page. We also have some experiences in our own lives where God has done something wonderful, just not on our schedule.
We also must remember that because God is outside of time as we know it, we will never fully (or even partially) understand His plans. But hang in there. Keep on praying and seeking His favor or blessing for someone. God’s track record is impeccable. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says this best: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)
Most of us have favorites. Be they in the world of movies, sports or music, we have certain personalities, teams and songs that we count as personal favorites.
I have a question for you today that I hope begins a conversation: Who is your favorite bible personality and why. I have found that depending on the season of life I am in or in what portion of the Scriptures I’m reading, my fave personality can change. That is ok, for God’s Word tells us that it is ‘living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12). With that being true, it stands to reason that this living document with reveal different things at different times to us.
With that being said, I was re-reading about one of my personal favorites just the other day, Philip. Philip is a prime example of a person with a servants heart who remains humble in the service to others, regardless of the fact that he gains a fair amount of notoriety as he does so.
We are first introduced to Philip in Chapter 6 in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The number of converts to Christianity has been expanding rapidly; so fast that some of the basic needs of these folks were not being met. The original Apostles wisely discern that they need more help, particularly in the distribution of food to widows and orphans. They select 7 people with the qualifications of being ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3) Philip is one of the 7 that are selected to help in this regard.
Soon after this, persecution breaks out against the growing movement of Christ followers. Many are scattered to other regions, including Philip. He ends up in Samaria where he preaches the Good News of salvation through Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip performs miracles that display God’s power. He is very popular among the people and many come to faith there.
With this background, allow me now to share 4 reasons Philip is a favorite of mine.
First: He was obedient to God. As I said, Philip was experiencing great success for the Kingdom of God in Samaria. Yet in Chapter 8 he has an encounter with an angel who gives him instructions to leave that ministry and go down a road toward Jerusalem. No other clarification is given. Philip simply listens and obeys. He did not allow his ego to cloud his judgment. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful example of obedience and trust.
Second: Philip is prepared. Like I said, he didn’t know what was ahead, but we soon find out that he was prepared to meet any challenge that might come. On the road, the bible tells us that Philip meets an official from Ethiopia who is stopped in his chariot, reading from the Scriptures. Feeling the prompting of the Spirit, Philip (in another act of obedience), goes to meet this man and then asks him if he understood what he had been reading.
The official answers that he cannot unless someone explains it to him. Philip starts with the passage the official had been reading (from Isaiah), and explains how this is the message of salvation found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is obvious to me that Philip had himself spent time studying, reading and applying the Scriptures. When the question of explaining something came up, Philip was prepared to give the answer.
Now, we do not have to be biblical scholars to be prepared like Philip. But we do need to be familiar with what the bible teaches so that we too can express the truth found in it.
Third: Philip was willing to adapt to the situation as it developed. The Ethiopian official, after having the Scripture explained to him, wanted to express his joy in coming to this knowledge of Jesus by being baptized. There was water nearby and Philip honored the man’s request by baptizing him right then and there.
Again, we might not be called to such a radical act, but then again you never now. May our trust in God be evidenced by our willingness to perform whatever task the Spirit lays out for us.
Fourth: Philip was consistent. Acts Chapter 8 tells us that after he baptized the Ethiopian official, Philip was suddenly and supernaturally taken from that place and placed in another town. Philip, not resting on his laurels, begins to preach the Good News there and everywhere has he traveled to Caesarea. Philip knew the call God had put on his heart, and he consistently walked it out wherever he was.
There you have my favorite, at least for today, from God’s Word. How about you, Most Precious Reader? Would you share with us one or more of your favorites that you have in the bible and why their story has impressed you? Thanks.
I have written, taught and preached many times that Jesus Christ is the perfect role model for all who follow Him. Although we know going in we will never perfectly emulate the Lord, we can and should be learning from His example on a daily basis.
The Scriptures, of course, are the primary place for us to gain insight into the Lord’s behavior. In the 11th Chapter of John’s Gospel, we find a narrative where much of Jesus character is revealed for all. In it, Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus is sick and near death. The bible tells us that Jesus was not only close to Lazarus, but to his sisters Martha and Mary as well.
We learn that Jesus does not go to them immediately, but waits 2 days. When He and his disciples do arrive at the village where Lazarus and his sisters lived, they find Lazarus already dead.
The sisters each go to Jesus and in their grief question the Lord as to why He did not come sooner. They both believe Jesus would have healed their brother.
As I considered this account again, I wondered for a moment why Jesus didn’t simply say the word of healing when He first got word of Lazarus condition. There are other examples in the gospels that tell Jesus healed at a distance (He sent 10 lepers away who were healed on their way to the priest and the royal officials son, who Jesus sent back home with the assurance that the child was healed. This official found out upon arriving home that his son was healed at the very same time he had spoken to Jesus the day before. These are just two examples of this kind of healing received from Jesus).
Obviously, Jesus was following the direction of the Father, whose desire was/is to make the Kingdom of God known to all. God’s plan was to open the eyes of people to His unmatched power; power even over death. This was also a portent of what was to come with the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus knew the importance of following the Father’s will, even though in the moment He was going to share the pain of Mary and Martha’s suffering. He was also experiencing a sense of disappointment as well; not that He had failed, but the powerful sense of the lostness of many of the people there.
The gospel writer sums it up in verse 35 of Chapter 11, Jesus wept. As I prepared to write this blog entry, I re-read of my favorite commentators on the Bible, Warren Wiersbe. What he wrote about this entire account is profound, so much so in fact that I want to share it with you all, for there is no way I could improve upon it.
“Jesus wept” is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners. But why did He weep at all? After all, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.
Our Lord’s weeping reveals the humanity of the Savior. He has entered into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. In fact, being the perfect God-man, Jesus experienced these things in a deeper way than we do. His tears also assure us of His sympathy; He is indeed “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” Today, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest, and we may come to the throne of grace and find all the gracious help that we need.
We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven. Perhaps Jesus was weeping for Lazarus, as well as with the sisters, because He knew He was calling His friend from heaven and back into a wicked world where he would one day have to die again. Jesus had come down from heaven; He knew what Lazarus was leaving behind.
The spectators saw in His tears an evidence of His love. But some of them said, “If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He not prevent his death?” Perhaps they were thinking, “Jesus is weeping because He was unable to do anything. They are tears of deep regret.” In other words, nobody present really expected a miracle! For this reason, nobody could accuse Jesus of “plotting” this event and being in collusion with the two sisters and their friends. Even the disciples did not believe that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead! (Warren Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series.)
Sometimes, you and I are called to obedience that will cause us pain or discomfort. This is not a place I look forward to being in, as predictability and comfort are my normal default settings. But I must keep the greater picture in mind by remembering that my purpose today is to further God’s Kingdom in all that I say and do. Jesus has also said that His followers are the pickup their own cross and follow Him. I believe this is what He was referring to when He said that.
There will be times when hurt will accompany the being in the Father’s will. The Son of God has indeed modeled this for us. I find great comfort in knowing that our Savior has experienced all the emotions that go along with being a human being. May we call on His loving care and mercy to see us through when those tasks fall to us.
As we walked Violet, our Goldendoodle, early this morning, my wife Betsy asked what I had planned for my day. I listed several chores I was going to do around the house and added that I hoped to publish a blog, if only inspiration would come. I explained that the well had been dry the last few days, but I was remaining committed to share what I believe God puts on my heart.
Things still appeared a bit dry, even as I began to research John 11, the raising of Lazarus, as a possible blog. It was at this time that my phone let me know I had a new text message from our dear friend Cheryl. (I highly recommend checking out her blog, Care for Parkinson’s, found here on WordPress, to get to know her as we have. She is a blessing!)
Anyway, Cheryl shared a devotion for today that had spoken to her in such a way that she wanted Betsy and I to have access to it as well. Having now read this, I feel the prompting of Holy Spirit to share some thoughts on this passage of Scripture. Thank you Cheryl for the nudge I needed today!!
Chapter 14 of Matthew’s gospel contains the familiar account of Jesus walking on the turbulent sea toward the boat the disciples were struggling against the wind in. Verse 26 tells us what they felt as this unexpected sight: When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. (NIV)
Jesus then attempts to assure them that it is indeed Him, and they need not fear. At this point Peter speaks up, “Lord, if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)
You probably know the rest of the story: Jesus tells Peter to come to Him on the water. Peter jumps out of the boat and does start to walk on the water, only to start sinking when he took his focus off Jesus and put it on the waves all around him.
Lessons abound on this point, as much has been written and said about Peter’s apparent lack of faith. Even Jesus points this out to the Twelve when He and Peter get into the boat with them as He chastises them for having doubt instead of faith.
To be honest, I sometimes want to get a little judgmental toward the disciples. I mean, they had seen Jesus do so much. He had healed many and produced food for thousands out of basically nothing. His teachings and overt actions of love toward so many had been witnessed by this select group.
But I am not in judging mode today. Today instead of pointing a figurative finger at the disciples, I am instead marveling that Peter got out of the boat at all. I do not have much experience being aboard boats, save a few canoe trips (on a calm pond) and sight-seeing cruises around The 1000s Islands here in Northern NY.
This makes me appreciate all the more what Peter did. At least he got out of the boat at the invitation of Jesus. We can safely assume he was as startled/scared as any of them at the sight of someone walking toward them on the water; water that the 12 had been struggling to cross for some hours in the dark of night.
Yet, Peter got out of the boat. I believe I understand a few things better now as I re-read this narrative. First, Peter asked Jesus a specific question (If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water. V. 28) to which Jesus simply said, “Come.”
Despite what he was feeling, Peter heard from Jesus, and got out of the boat. He could have stayed aboard with the others, waiting to see how this played out. Sure, it was windy and wavy, but he was an experienced mariner and probably knew he would survive this squall as he had many others before. Lesson received, Peter: Don’t stay paralyzed in a circumstance. Rather, seek Jesus. Ask Him what to do and then act in faith on His response.
This took a fair amount of courage on Peter’s part. Talk about literally stepping into the unknown! He trusted in Jesus, and got out of the boat! And for a few wondrous moments, he too was walking on the water. Next lesson from Peter: There may well be great wonder when you step out in faith. To get the fuller extent of this wonder, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. It is my intention to do so, but I/we all know that the world around us is often in upheaval, revealing things that often vie for our attention. Thanks to Peter’s example, I am going to make a better effort to stay focused on Jesus.
Yes, I plan on getting out of the boat more often because the One who calls me to is ever faithful. He will not allow me to fall by the way, so long as I realize I need Him for every step I take (be it on dry ground or not!?).
How about you? Any ‘getting out the boat’ experiences you would like to share?
I would love to hear them.
As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.
No April Fool’s joke here, the Scriptures that describe the events leading to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus give us two examples of an angry Jesus.
When last we spoke, adoring crowds welcomed Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. The building excitement of His ministry seemed destined to conclude with Him being crowned King of the Jews. The events in the narrative of the following days do little to disprove the people’s belief that their earthly king was about to take his crown.
Picking up the story in Mark’s Gospel at Chapter 11, verses 12-19, we find evidence of an angry Jesus. It is now the following morning, and Jesus and His disciples are walking back to Jerusalem. Along the way, the author tells us Jesus was hungry and walked toward a fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. As He reached it, the Lord saw that it had only leaves and no fruit. Seemingly angry, Jesus then says to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mark 11:14 NIV)
We see another example of an angry Jesus later that same day as He entered the temple in Jerusalem. If you will recall, these were the days leading up to the important celebration of Passover. Many Jewish pilgrims would have been in Jerusalem for this event, fulfilling their vows in the temple. Those travelers who did not have the appropriate animals with them for the sacrificial rituals would have to buy them from opportunistic sellers in the courtyard of the temple. Also, because these people came from some great distances, the currency they used in their home village would not be usable at the temple. Therefore, money-changers were also doing a brisk business there.
Jesus comes upon this scene and angerly disperses these merchants, saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17 NIV) It is not difficult to close your eyes and picture the scene: mass confusion as small animals, various coins and bewildered worshipers are scattered about.
I don’t know about you, my Most Appreciated Readers, but I rarely spend much time contemplating an angry Jesus. I would much rather picture Him smiling at small children, teaching in the countryside or performing one of His many documented miracles. Yet, there is no denying that the Jesus told of here in Mark Chapter 11 is an angry one. And as I was taught early on, “if it is in the bible, it is important.”
What, then, is up with an angry Jesus? One view might be that He simply was under considerable pressure. His earthly time of ministry was coming to a close with a horrible, painful death on the horizon. I know that when I am feeling mounting expectations, I often can act more rashly by lashing out at things and people.
This is understandable with me, a foible human. But what about Jesus, the Son of God. Why not quietly point out to the temple vendors the issues He had with them and for that matter, how about miraculously make figs appear on that leafy tree?
Allow me to share an opinion or two on these occurrences. With the fig tree, I believe it would have been self-serving of the Lord to feed Himself in this way. Jesus had the power of heaven at His command, and He had used it wisely throughout His time on earth as a means to point people toward God the Father. It simply would not have been appropriate to manufacture a ‘to go’ meal with this power.
Also, as we read on, we find that Jesus and His disciples walk the same path to Jerusalem the next day. On it they see the fig tree in question, and it is withered. Jesus uses this to point out that those who were merely doing ‘religious things’ for their own profit were like this tree; lifeless in spirit and producing mothing of worth.
By clearing the temple in the manner in which He did, I believe Jesus was sending a strong and clear message about how we are to worship God. As He expelled the merchants and bankers, Jesus left no doubt as to what the priority is to be for those who claim to worship God: He alone is worth our undivided devotion. The temple was not to be a market, but rather a place where the world is set aside in order that focus could be placed solely and properly on the Father.
These emotional outbursts, if you will, serve another important point as well. Earlier I mentioned how it is I normally picture Jesus. These thoughts and images are of a loving Savior, who willingly sets aside everything in order that He reach the hearts of people. While this is a true picture of the Lord, it is not a complete one.
Along with being all-loving, the Savior is also perfect and holy. His justice is perfect always. His character cannot be impugned, nor should anyone doubt the complete honesty and consistency of His actions in dealing with creation.
I believe it to be essential in our spiritual growth to maintain this more complete picture of who and what God is, for it is in His perfection that we can completely place our trust. As we consider more of His character, we become able to better understand His love for us.
Yes, He is all-loving. But it is in the completeness of His nature that this total love can best be seen. He is holy. There is no part of Him that can abide with sin in any form. Yet, He loves us infinitely.
This is a love we cannot hope to earn, and blessedly, we do not have to. God, in His total wisdom, knows full well that you and I can never perform enough pious acts to win our way into His grace. Therefore, because His loves knows no bounds, He simply loves us because we are His creation.
This universal love was/is on display clearly upon the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion. The fullness of deity is found in Jesus (Colossian 2:9-10). He was both fully God and fully human as He walked the earth. This fullness includes everything we have considered here today, and so very much more.
Please take a few moments this week as you prepare to celebrate the Resurrection to consider more deeply the full nature of the God who saves.
Today, March 28th, 2021, Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday. On this day we remember what is known as the ‘Triumphal Entry,’ as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, welcomed as the long-awaited Messiah. You can find the depiction of this event in Mark 11:1-11.
The gospel writer makes full use of the symbolism at hand. First, Jesus instructs his disciples to bring Him a colt to ride on. The Lord mentions that this animal is one that has never been ridden, thus making it an appropriate mount for a king.
It is also important to keep in mind that at this climactic time in Jesus’ ministry, He is wildly popular among the ‘every day’ folks He has been ministering to and teaching. These people had been living under the oppressive rule of Rome and had been waiting many generations for the promised messiah to lead them to freedom. By seeing the miracles and the healings, many had concluded that this Jesus was the one who would lead them to freedom.
The culmination of these events happens as the annual Passover Celebration is nearing. This feast commemorated God leading the Jewish people out from the bondage of Egypt. It is no great leap then to see how this remembrance would enhance the expectation of what Jesus was going to do for them, that is break them out from the dominion of Rome.
Mark’s account of this first Palm Sunday tells of the great excitement and expectation of the crowd that has gathered along the road leading into Jerusalem. I can picture it like a modern day parade, with folks jammed in shoulder to shoulder, craning their necks for a better view of what is happening. The crowd cheered for Jesus. They shouted praises, throwing their cloaks on the road in front of Him to pave the way for this heavenly royalty. The air was electric as the promised King who was going to make all their troubles go away passed by.
We, living on this side of the events of biblical history, know how quickly the great expectations of the masses turned to anger, despair and disillusionment. A mere four days later this soon-to-be king was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The crowd that had so enthusiastically cheered His coming now raised their voices to have Him crucified.
Those now pleading for the death of Jesus were no doubt some who had been awed by the sights they had seen: Thousands fed from almost nothing, diseases healed, demons cast out and even the dead brought back to life. The glitter of these events was very bright, but when they stopped happening, what was left? For many, I suppose they felt empty and a bit sad that they had been ‘taken in’ by what they had seen. But now the showmen was arrested and about to die, this certainly was no messiah. The anger and disappointment boiled over into a mob calling for this charlatan’s death.
Well, that would never have been me, I comfort myself with. Surely I would have stayed to the bitter end. Not so fast Charles.
If I am to be honest, there are times in my life even now where doubt seems stronger than faith. When the earnest prayers of the faithful seemingly go unanswered, a part of my heart wonders why. As the world falls deeper into darkness and hopelessness, I cry out to God to make Himself known to many. Yet, the many do not seem interested.
As I contemplate these things, it occurs to me that I must be vigilant when it comes to faith. I can do this in a number of ways. First, I must recall that any faith that I have is a gift from God and that I do not generate it on my own. (Romans 12:3b). Because this faith is a gift from God, it is meant to be lived out in trust in Him. In Him means who God is, not necessarily what He is doing.
This was the flaw of many of the original audience on that first Palm Sunday. They had put their belief in the tremendous things they had seen, not in the One who provided the power to make them happen. Once the ‘show’ seemed to end, so did their own belief.
You and I must be vigilant here as well. As wonderful as it is to see firsthand the power of God at work, this should only enhance our faith, not be the basis for it.
We are so incredibly blessed to be living after these biblical events happened. We are privy to how the story played out. We can understand that the miracles of Jesus were to draw people’s attention to God; but it was God and not the miracles they were to place their trust in.
Let us all who recognize what the gift of faith truly is raise our voices today (and everyday) to proclaim the greatness of God. May we live our lives as examples of His saving power that is still at work in the world. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we all be faithful, not fickle, followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Ah, Google, how did I ever learn things before you showed up on my computer. I was mulling over the idea for today’s blog while shoveling snow from the driveway earlier, attempting as I do to find application for today from the timeless truth found in the Scriptures. Actually this blog has been rattling around between my ears for about a week, ever since I re-read the encounter a father of a sick /possessed child had with Jesus. (please check in out in Mark 9:14-27)
If you just read this or are familiar with the event contained there, and if you have a beating heart in your chest, you can sense the desperation in the dad. Back to Google for a moment: I knew there existed a famous quote about desperate times and measures, and thanks to the search engine, there it was: The Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates said it first and said it best: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” In other words, drastic times call for drastic measures.
You can get a sense of the drastic times calling for drastic measures the father felt as he spoke to Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
Whether this was demon possession of a terrible affliction of seizures is not the point. What is important for us to focus on is the strong desire of the boy’s father to help his son. Word of Jesus and His healing power was well known by this point in His earthly ministry, as evidenced by the large crowds following the Lord everywhere He went. No matter if folks were merely looking for a show or if they were also desperate to have a need met, they sought out Jesus in droves.
In this case the father, in searching for Jesus he instead came across His disciples, who also by this time had a growing reputation of being healers. In this case, however, they were unsuccessful in healing the boy. Again, the sense of desperation is palpable in the dad as captured in his response to Jesus when asked by the Lord how long the child had been in this condition: “From childhood,” he answered. “It often throws him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:21-22 NIV).
Did you catch the “if you can?” Jesus sure did! “‘If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” As was Jesus usual approach, He wanted people to see the necessity of placing their faith in God for all things as opposed to simply seeking intervention for their problem. (V.23)
The desperate dad then exclaims what I believe to be the heart of this message, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (V.24)
Those of us who have been blessed with having and loving children probably identify with the depth of feeling this father had. After all, his long-suffering son seemed to be in the right place and at the right time for something miraculous to happen, but it had not. I can relate to his plea. “Tell me what else to do” in order that my child be helped. Any devoted parent would make any sacrifice in that moment for the welfare of their child. As you read the rest if this account, you see where the mercy, love and power of Jesus Christ does restore the lad to health.
What I am left pondering, and invite you to do the same, Most Precious Reader, is how desperate am I for Jesus in non-crisis times. Those times when life is cruising along pretty much as I want it. I am comfortable in my surroundings and not worrying about anything substantial.
Where is Jesus in these times of life? Am I merely keeping Him on retainer for when something comes along to knock my life off course? Sadly and honestly, there are times when I simply do take things for granted. Oh, I can do the things I do and say all the right things that go along with my calling, but is this where Jesus wants my heart?
The obvious answer is no. The Lord is zealous for the relationship He has forged with those who know Him through faith. And I believe He wants me/us desperate for more of Him, not merely content with what I have, for as my desire for more of Him grows within me, much of what I selfishly cling to falls away.
Realizing this, I join my prayer with the boys father, and ask Jesus to help me overcome my unbelief.
How about you? Do you struggle with areas of unbelief or maybe a lackadaisical type of faith? I would love to hear how you overcome that.
Thanksgiving in the United States is considered the traditional kick-off of the holiday season. How much of a season of good cheer it turns out to be is yet to be seen, however.
2020 has certainly been a year like no other. In this country we have seen civil unrest, Mother Nature at her worst, political upheaval and of course, the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amidst all the pain, suffering and uncertainty of the future, some might find it hard to be thankful at this time in history. I would not be one of them, however. My heart certainly goes out to those who have lost so much to wildfires and hurricanes. It breaks for those who have lost loved ones to sickness.
I whole-heartedly believe that true thanksgiving must spring from our hearts regardless of current circumstance. I can best accomplish this when I stay focused on the One who always deserves my humble gratitude, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will be preaching a Thanksgiving sermon from Luke 17:11-19. I have given this message the title: Giving Thanks in a Socially Distanced World. This passage of Scriptures relates the account of Jesus healing 10 who were afflicted with leprosy. I hope that as you consider these verses, you too will be able to give proper thanks and praise more readily to our Lord.
I admit I had never used, thought of or even considered the term ‘social distancing’ before March of this year. Social distancing is now the norm. Keeping a minimum of 6 feet or more from others is considered the best way to slow the spread of Covid-19 down. It is not a new idea, however. Those 10 lepers seeking healing from Jesus used it as well: They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:12b-13 NIV)
Like us, you could say that the ten lepers were not having a good year either. Their condition was not only debilitating physically, but it made them outcasts from all people, family and friends included.
The lepers were living/existing away from their families. The family unit was very tight back then. Their absence would have been keenly felt, affecting the lives of the rest of that group. These 10 had an incurable disease and depending on its severity, a death sentence. Those family members would have had little to no hope of seeing their loved one again.
This certainly helps explain the joy they must have felt when they were cured. The desire to let their loved ones know they we healed and back with them would have been very strong; strong enough to prevent them from even thinking about going back to thank the One who had healed them.
However, in our currently socially distanced condition, we can learn the most about giving thanks from the one who came back to Jesus. Gratitude, in my opinion, is an action word. Merely saying I’m grateful without a heart and /or actions to back it up is a bit shallow. The man who went back to Jesus modeled the action of gratitude. He changed direction, putting the giving of thanks above anything else he may have initially wanted to do. He thanked the Lord before going off on his new lease on life.
Practically speaking, how might you and I display the action of gratitude in a socially distanced world? Here is one suggestion: Take the time today to call someone you know that is alone. Let them know you are thinking of them. Ask if there is anything they need and express a willingness to fulfill that need if you are able.
As I think of it, truly giving thanks in a socially distanced world depends little on our current circumstances. Rather, the driving force of daily thanksgiving is God Himself. Merely scanning the Scriptures reveals many things to be grateful on a daily basis because of who God is and what He does.
Think of it as a fill-in-the-blank exercise: God I thank you for: ______________
Here are a few examples:
God I thank you for: saving me through your Son Jesus Christ
God I thank you for: your faithful love
God I thank you for: the fact I can pray to you.
Please notice that this list includes not one item having to do with things or possessions. Rather it is all about who God is and what He has done, is doing and will do. I firmly believe that the more we keep the eyes of our hearts open to see what God is doing in and around us, the more grateful for Him we become.
This is not to say we shouldn’t be grateful for the material blessings in our lives. We should be grateful to God for the gifts He bestows on us. I merely remind you to not lose sight that the material things, as wonderful as they may be, will one day be gone. Only God is constant. He is forever loving us, leading us, calling us to Him. Let nothing separate you/me from giving thanks to Him!
The 10 lepers kept their distance, yet still called out to the Lord. You and I have no restrictions to God’s availability. The only barriers to us knowing Him more intimately are put there by ourselves.
God does not demand that we thank Him. We can assume the other 9 lepers remained healed even though they did not come back to say thanks to Jesus. But the one who did return received an even greater blessing. He got to look into the eyes of Jesus. The Lord then blessed him abundantly by revealing what faith in Him can do. I believe this man’s healing went beyond his surface condition and reached his heart with the peace that only God can give.
So run to His embrace. Know the depth of His love for you. As you do, you will find freedom to live a thanksgiving life every day that no social distance can keep you from.