Thursday, April 30, 2020

Herod was haunted

Matthew 14:1-2 / Mark 6:14-16 / Luke 9:7-9…

He had put John the Baptist to death, but now another man was going about and through his actions was laying claim to authority, proving it in both word and deed. People were thronging to this new man, and Herod knew he was in trouble. He knew he had wrongly imprisoned and killed John, so he thought that this was a manifestation of menace sent by God to torment him. 

Anything that threatens the comfortable status quo of our spirituality sets us on edge. Suddenly our personal power structure is in jeopardy, and we will be looking and listening for anything to relieve our haunted heart. People will come and tell you everything you want to hear, and if you don’t know God, or if you are currently turned away from Him in rebellion, you will naturally incline towards whatever it is that resonates with your rebellious soul.

People will use all sorts of amusement, medication, busyness and whatever else their mind can think of to try and avoid and abate their own torment. But you can’t kill a guilty conscience on your own. You have to let Jesus be Jesus, or you will suffer in superstition. Yes, you can harden yourself, but even the calcified conscience can be crushed open by the power of God. This new man must take over (Galatians 4:19 / Ephesians 4:17-24). When Jesus begins to ascend the throne, you had better abdicate or you will be a miserable shell of self-menace trapped in the haunted prison of your own heart. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I tell you

Matthew 10:17-42…

Imagine what these disciples must have been thinking and feeling. There was certainly an air of anticipation, but there surely was also an air of apprehension. They were now going to be “out front” as it were, “without” Jesus in the way they were used to. How often it is that we fear leaving the comfortable confines of church and community, and striking out into the situations of other lives on behalf of Jesus.

This is especially so when we are reminded that many will not receive our message. Some will be excited, but some will be enraged (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Even some people who seem close to us might “throw us under the bus”. People will rise up against you because they are victims of the Enemy (2 Timothy 2:26), and the enemy wishes to cause them to rise against Jesus, who is the victor over you (2 Corinthians 5:14-19). Still, the Lord is with us (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

He tells them to prepare for the worst. Yet even when it seems like all is despair, there are still moments of deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Even when faced with death, there is still final deliverance; and our final answer (1 Peter 3:15) will be made right (Daniel 3:16-18 / 2 Timothy 4:18). This is all part of being conformed to the image of our Master (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus has got us covered. His eye is on the sparrow, He knows our every move, our gains and losses. He is most intimately involved with those who are His. And we are the most precious thing to Him. Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and our whole Christian lives are journeys where we are being delivered from fear and into faith. Jesus comforted them and He comforts us with these same truths (Hebrews 13:5-6).

There will be reward for those who lose their former lives for the sake of Jesus, and those who hear Him will be granted the ability to speak for Him, and to hear Him all the more. It is a glorious thing to know, that we would be able to declare the eternal truth about our eternal God and to be a member of the eternal family in our coming eternal home. This is the antidote to the terror of the temporary.

I tell you the truth.    

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I send you

Matthew 10:1-16 / Mark 6:7-13 / Luke 9:1-6…

Now Jesus applies what He had said to them; they were going to be the answer to their own  prayers He asked them to pray about sending laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).  He is applying this to you as well. You are to pray for laborers to be sent for the harvest, and be about laboring in the harvest too.

So now these disciples who have seen Jesus do all these wonderful things, but who have also seen Jesus be rejected, they are gathered by Him, empowered by Him, and sent out. They probably reasoned within themselves that they would not be able to do what He had called them to do. But if Jesus has the power, and is the power, then He has the power to give the power.  

You know yourself and your failures, flaws, fears, and frustrations, all too well. You know who Jesus is, too. You protest, saying, “I haven’t been given the powers they have”. Haven’t you? It is no real surprise that Jesus calls on you to do something extraordinary, although you wonder why He would choose you to do it. But you’re no different than the original disciples. Jesus has always been the master at turning weaknesses into strengths and making useless people useful.

It isn’t that Jesus is giving us all the power to physically raise the dead, but to be involved in raising the spiritually dead. He has given us the power to raise ourselves from out of the worldly dead and into the godly people we ought to be, to die to self (Mark 8:35 / John 12:26 / 1 Peter 4:1-12) and become people who can live for Christ (Philippians 1:21 / Galatians 2:20), win others to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-27 / James 5:19-20 / Proverbs 11:30 / Luke 5:10), and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 5:18-21 / Romans 15:1-6).

That takes as much supernatural, Holy Spirit power as anything any other disciple has ever done. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

I pray for you

Matthew 9:35-38…

Jesus was going about His business, teaching, preaching, and healing, showing His power over all affliction and disease as proof of who He was and is. Yet the demonstration of who He is was not just through power, but also through pity (Matthew 14:14, 15:32).

He was meeting needs in great numbers, but He saw greater needs than numbers. People had problems, but their greatest problem is that they were lost, and had no one to guide them. Jesus is the One to whom we guide people, and Jesus will guide them when He has them, but who will guide them to Jesus in the first place? Who will continue to shepherd them as a servant of Jesus through the problems of life?

You may have strong and right convictions, but the bridge between your conviction and their connection is true compassion (Ephesians 4:15). Do we bear witness to the truth by our compassion for the crowds, the masses of lost people in our own little slice of the world? If you think you are a devoted disciple, but are not developing a compassion for others, you’re not loving God as well as you think you are (Leviticus 19:18 / Matthew 7:12, 22:35-40 / Mark 12:28-34 / Luke 10:25-28 / Romans 13:8-10 / Galatians 5:14 / James 2:8).

This is a call to souls. This is not just a prayer for missionary workers, or evangelists, but for true disciples, who are always about the missionary task because they are always out to serve the Lord by living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying their brothers and sisters in Christ. So whether it is saving souls, strengthening saints, or sending servants, they are living witnesses. We must pray, and we must also realize that we are the answer to the prayer that someone would “pass by” the one in need. Put your hands together to pray for the harvest, and stretch your hands out to gather it. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I marvel at you

Matthew 13:53-58 / Mark 6:1-6…

Jesus was coming back to Nazareth, where He grew up (Luke 4:16), but where He had been violently rejected (Luke 4:29). The disciples followed along, because true disciples follow their Master (John 8:12, 10:27, 12:26). We don’t walk perfectly, but as we get to know Him we will follow along even when it means risk (Acts 15:25-26).

Jesus went to church and taught the Bible, just as He had done before (Luke 4:17-21). At first they were impressed by His teaching, astonished by His wisdom and power. Soon, however, they were offended, and their unbelief was manifest. Familiarity had bred contempt.

Is not this the carpenter…? The people that have known you, the folks that have seen you grow up, and the community that knows where you came from, it can be hard for these people to accept your advances in the faith. Many times others don’t accept the “new you” because they haven’t known the power of change themselves. But you have to believe that people can change, because if you don’t, you are denying the power of God, and you have no hope for people, and that includes yourself. God can change that stubborn person; He changed you, didn’t He?

And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. It was not that He couldn’t but that He wouldn’t. Sometimes we get so settled in our routines, or so satisfied by other things that the things that ought to be continually cherished become the mere motions of a soul empty of energy. Contempt for the preaching of the gospel, corporate worship and Communion will not go unnoticed by God (2 Chronicles 36:15-16). The progression from apathy to abandonment and antagonism of God’s Word will lead to spiritual starvation (Amos 8:11-14).

While on earth, there were two things that made Jesus marvel. He marveled at the faith of those who we would expect to have unbelief (Matthew 8:5-13 / cf. Matthew 15:21-28), and at the unbelief of those who we would expect to have faith.

Jesus marvels at you, but which way?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

I hear you

Matthew 9:32-34…

Of course, Jesus is once again fulfilling His messianic call (Isaiah 35:5).

Of course, just because Jesus ordered the demon out of the man, and his speech resumed immediately doesn’t mean that anyone who cannot see, speak, or hear is demon possessed or has some curse (cf. John 9:1-5).

Of course, it wasn’t that all of them thought all the right things about Jesus. Some were beginning to recognize who He was, but many were just enthralled at the spectacle.

Of course, the religious leaders would have none of it. How we interpret the movements of God, and the facts about Jesus reveals the condition of our heart. Are you happy when people are helped, or do you immediately attribute everything to ulterior motives and sinister means?

Of course, Jesus knew that this would be so (Matthew 13:14-15). Those that have no fellowship have no faith, and therefore have no reason to see or hear what Jesus has to say, even denying His obvious presence among them in power.

Of course, for those whom it is granted to see and hear, the move of God is a wonderful thing to behold and be a part of (Matthew 13:16 / Acts 10:38).

Of course, it can be quite easy to slip into cynicism and lose sight of the truth in the search to prove or preserve our position.

Of course, you can hear what I’m saying, can’t you?

Friday, April 24, 2020

I see you

Matthew 9:27-31…

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him. Think about it; blind men found Him. The news of Jesus raising the little girl from the dead would have caused quite a commotion, and the crowd obviously was a signal that Jesus was coming near. Are we discerning God’s movements?

Have mercy on us, Son of David. These men realized who Jesus was. “Son of David” was a messianic title (Romans 1:3), and the healing of the blind a messianic hope (Isaiah 35:5). This miracle shows yet another realm of the authority of Jesus; He can give sight.

Do you believe that I am able to do this? Jesus gives them the opportunity to pour out their whole heart. Yes, Jesus is God, and He knows our heart (Hebrews 4:12-13), but He wants us to strive for His heart (Hebrews 11:6).

According to your faith be it done to you. This does not mean that the amount of healing depends on the amount of faith. Rather, it simply means that these blind men received their sight from Jesus because they believed Him to be the Messiah. They had faith based on what they knew the Scripture predicted and what they had heard Jesus was doing. We see the Scriptures, and we hear the testimonies, but will we have faith? Keep looking, and keep changing (2 Corinthians 3:18).

See that no one knows about it. Jesus was revealing Himself as the Messiah, but at that time He was trying to control the situation because He was first and foremost coming for the problem of sin, and that would take the cross, not the throne. It was and is always more about the spiritual than the physical. Now that His death and resurrection have happened, we are supposed to go and tell everyone. Unbelievers are held captive by the enemy and are blind to the liberating truth, but Jesus has the power to give sight (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

Do you see Jesus as He is, or is He just some guy that people are talking about?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Time for breakfast

Matthew 9:23-26 / Mark 5:35-43 / Luke 8:49-56…

Why does Jesus say that the girl is just sleeping, when it is clear that He understands she’s dead? The answer is that Jesus is giving us an understanding of His power over death (Hebrews 2:14-15). He spoke to her as if she was alive because God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17).

Jesus basically tells the girl, “Honey, it is time to get up.” Jesus is saying by His actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.”

We view our problems differently than God. We have a finite perspective and power, we are limited. God has an infinite perspective and power. He is not limited. We see Jesus as misinformed of our situation, and incapable of doing what we need. What we may see as a crisis, God sees as something else. We think it is too late, but God is always right on time.

The ordeal takes the people surrounding the place from weeping, to scornful laughter, to wondrous awe. That seems to be the way of most people who are born again by the Spirit of God. Not that the people in this story were born again, but that many people start out in the place of sorrow, and when Jesus is presented to them, they immediately act with scorn, but then after Jesus makes His true person and power known to them, they now stand in awe of their Savior.

Notice that she was given something to eat. She was brought back to life, but she would still have to live out her days in natural ways. You may have received the new birth, but you need new food. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed, so let us not run back to the jail cell, or be so hasty to place the shackles back on our feet. We must feed on Christ.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Dealing with issues

Matthew 9:20-22 / Mark 5:25-34 / Luke 8:43-48…

This woman had endured many years of suffering and shame because of her issue of blood. Others would have considered her unclean (Leviticus 15:25-27), causing social and emotional hurt on top of the physical problems. She had to deal with loneliness because family and friends would have to remain distant, and she couldn’t worship with others in the prescribed way. Not only that, she spent all her money on physicians that could not heal her.

Many are like this woman was; many things can be the “issue” that seems to ruin anything we try to do. It may be emotional, some sort of obsession or other personality trait, or a problem area you want to let go of but can’t seem to get free from. You live with a poison, and though you have tried, you can’t seem to be rid of it. Just when you start to find your way out of the den of discouragement, that same something fouls it up and you find your way back “home” again.

Observe this scene, and realize the love of Jesus, who rescues those whose hope is dying.

She came in, to get what she needed. Jesus was on His way somewhere else, but the woman presses through the crowd, and she gets a hold of Him. That which went out of Jesus stopped that which was coming out of the woman. Jesus makes time for those who press in (Hebrews 11:6).

He calls out, drawing her near. Jesus becomes the pursuer, brushing aside the protest of the disciples, stopping the procession of people, searching for a person who knew they needed Him. Jesus is still looking for hurting people (Matthew 9:12-13).

She came back, knowing she could not hide, confessed and worshipped (cf. Hebrews 4:12-16). Jesus offers a word of extreme inclusion and acceptance; He calls her daughter. Jesus takes those on the outside and makes them part of the ultimate “in” crowd (Galatians 3:28).

She came to touch Him because of her faith; she was made whole because she fell down in humility, her pride crucified in front of the crowd. We just want our little piece of Jesus, but our confession and worship will have to go public if we truly want to deal with all the issues surrounding our “issue”. Perhaps it’s time to air out your dirty laundry (James 5:16).

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Welcome party

Matthew 9:18-19 / Mark 5:21-24 / Luke 8:40-42…

This short passage doesn’t seem to get to the point, does it? However, even without the conclusion a few verses later, we can see several things we need to know about “setting the table” for God to move. Would Jesus be welcome at our table?

The first thing we see is the attitude of the people. Jesus was driven from one place, and like most of us, He goes where He is welcome. They were waiting on Him. This is the same whether it is the city, church, home, or the individual life. Does He feel invited today, wherever you are? What spiritual food are you feeding on? Are you appreciative – does Jesus control your diet, or are you just inviting Him over as a guest?

There is also the point of asking (James 4:2). He approaches near to those who come near to Him (James 4:8). The crowds massed about and caved in on Jesus, but one man made sure he got close. He had come from his own place and earnestly implored Jesus to help his daughter. Jesus responds to the faith of the man. Do you ask Him to move in your life, and on behalf of others? Are you active – do you put legs to your prayers?

Finally, we see anticipation when Jesus begins to move on behalf of the man. The crowd reacts to the movements of Jesus. They went walking with Him. People want to see what Jesus will do. Do you move and expect Him to follow, or are you the one who is the follower? Are you paying attention – Jesus is on the move, but are you following along in expectant faith?

Just who is the servant at that table, anyway (Luke 17:7-10)?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Dealing with Sinful Desires

When dealing with a sinful desire, you might wish that God would take the desire from you rather than having to fight the sin within you. It seems so hard, it takes so much effort, you fail so often, and you wonder why it is even necessary. But God has designed for you to grow in grace as you lean on him to help you fight. In this way you get to know God. You get to partner with him and see how he loves you in this fight, how he is for you against your sin. And you experience his work in you more intimately. You more fully experience the power of His Word and His Spirit. You can experience God’s people praying and working together to help mold each other into the image of Christ. And you learn not to play with sin, as you discover just how dangerous and damaging it is in your life, and how your sins affect other lives. Through this process, you mature, and your desires begin to change as you long for heaven.

Pigs before people

Matthew 8:33-34 / Mark 5:14-20 / Luke 8:34-39…

Sometimes we can be like those townspeople. They knew that Jesus was responsible for the deliverance of the demon possessed and that He had sent the demons into the pigs. This caused them great fear; not only in awe of the power of Jesus, but at the thought that they too might have to lose something to help someone. They weren’t willing to give up their livelihood, they were afraid of the sight of a changed man and what it cost them, and they asked Jesus to leave. The demons didn’t mind leaving the man as long as they could stick around that town. Why? The people cared more about the pigs than others.

People want God to do something, but when He does it in a way that makes them count the cost, they are unwilling to pay it. It might get a little messy; it might cost you something personally for God to move in someone else’s life. And you might not get to sacrifice the things you are ready to lose. It might be that God takes away something you want to give something they need. God in His sovereign will brings things to pass through means, and that means if you want it you will have to be sacrificing some time, some money, and some comfort.

Many today, however, by our lack of prayer and care, are asking Jesus to leave. We say we want that man to be set free, but all we really want is for him to settle down and be quiet, not to disturb our peaceful life. We don’t want to help him if it is going to cost us something. Our lack of care in prayer shows the truth that we either have nothing at stake, or don’t want to put ourselves at risk. But revival, deliverance, repentance and restoration are going to cost you something, and an empty altar receives no fire.