Sunday, May 24, 2020

Where the power is

Matthew 17:19-21 / Mark 9:28-29…

These other disciples who had not gone up the mountain had nevertheless had mountaintop experiences before. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, they had been commissioned by Him to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead, and they had seen and done these things.

Yet they could not accomplish the task at hand. We may be the children of God, and we may be servants of God, and we may have seen ourselves in victorious situations, but nevertheless, there are times when we will suffer temporary defeat.

What is the purpose in all of this? Is it to shake our faith? No, it is to drive us to our knees. Then again, it is to shake our faith, if it needs to be shaken. That is, if we are mostly having faith in ourselves and what we have been given, instead of supreme faith in the one who gave us these gifts. We have to look beyond our calling, our qualifications, our successes, or we will get into a rut of ritual. We can grow mechanical, formulaic, and complacent. God has to shake us to wake us, to take us from our spiritual slumber and into closer communion with Him. Often this is done through defeat. It reminds us that the place of prayer is the place of power.

Often we can get so enamored or desperate that we turn certain prayers, formulas, methods or manuals into our trusted weapons. You think it must be good because it has “worked” for so many and so many times before. Perhaps, but it can be mere gobbledygook, placebo and pragmatism if it is not accompanied by real power, and that through prayer.

You protest, “But I am praying and it isn’t working”. Good, then, God is trying to teach you something. Again you protest, “But I don’t know anything else that works like this”. Yes, that is exactly what I am trying to tell you. Get with God, and beware of clinical and clerical technique. Things aren’t always supposed to “work”.

You want the power back? Get back on your knees for real.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Help our unbelief

Matthew 17:14-18 / Mark 9:14-27 / Luke 9:37-42…

Peter, James, and John had been on a mountain where they saw Jesus in His glorified state. They also saw Moses and Elijah, and they heard the audible voice of God from above as confirmation. It was a wonderful experience, but as soon as they come down the mountain to meet the other disciples, they walk right into trouble.

The other disciples were being questioned by the scribes about why they could not cast out a demon from a boy. There are many people that need help, but we are often powerless to help them, it seems. Yet it is not that we are helpless to help others; it is that we look to our own power, instead of reaching out in faith to God before we reach out to help others. 

Jesus is not saying that whatever we want we can have if we just believe. He was delivering a promise to this particular man. Jesus is saying that the healing of the son is God’s will and that He had the power to do it. What the man needed was faith in that. Our faith should always be based on the clear teaching of the Word of God. If God promises something, we can believe He will do it if we ask by faith (1 John 5:14-15). However, we must learn to rightly interpret the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15), so that we don’t try and claim promises that are not really there for us.

Sometimes it isn’t that we don’t believe in God, it is that we don’t believe that we need to study. Great experiences are wonderful but we must come down from the mountain and dive into the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:17-19). Our mountaintop doesn’t exclude us from our study desk.  

Friday, May 22, 2020

Spirit and power

Matthew 17:10-13 / Mark 9:11-13…

The Old Testament closed with a promise (Malachi 4:5-6), and some 400 years later, that hope, God’s promise, is now fulfilled. The one like Elijah has come. After the Transfiguration, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” They had just seen Elijah and wondered about this prophecy. Jesus was saying that the modern “Elijah” is John the Baptist. His preaching was powerful and made many others ready to come to Christ. He comes and ministers under opposition and hatred from the religious leaders, and this modern day Elijah will be the launching pad of Jesus’ ministry.

The angel Gabriel had already announced that John the Baptist was not actually Elijah in person, but in type (Luke 1:17). John denies that he is actually Elijah in person (John 1:21), but Jesus calls him Elijah in spirit (Malachi 3:1 / Isaiah 40:3). John was trying to turn a nation. During the time of Elijah, the people had turned away from the Lord, choosing instead to embrace paganism and a worldly lifestyle. It was the role of Elijah on Mount Carmel to lead the people back to God (1 Kings 18:37-39).

In the same way, John pointed the people to Jesus, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The spirit of Elijah brings repentance (to make ready a people prepared for the Lord), unity (turn the heart of fathers to children), and intercession (1 Kings 18:41-46 / James 5:17-18). This is the message we need today before the second coming of Jesus Christ.