Christianity 201

August 25, 2017

Even the Weather Obeys Him

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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We’re paying a return visit today to Bryan Lowe and his blog, Broken Believers. Click the title below to read this at source. We had several good articles to choose from, so click through and look around.

Here Be Giants!

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT

There is an ancient map in London, England dated from 1525, that has some interesting notations written on it. At one edge someone wrote, “From this point there are fiery scorpions.’  And also written, was “Here be dragons.” On the other margin somebody else noted, ‘Here be giants.” But a believer named Sir John Franklin wrote on this same map, “Here is God.”

Certainly cartographic scorpions, dragons and giants seem to be bit quaint. We certainly don’t really believe in such things anymore. Yet the presence of God is true and quite real. He is present, and is quite active in the lives of everyone who has ever used a map of any sort.

35 “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  Mark 4:25-41, NLT

The Sea of Galilee actually has four names, and it actually isn’t a sea, but a lake with sweet and good water. The lake is over 13 miles long and 7 miles at its widest point. The way the hills surround the lake can produce waves over 20 feet, due to unique weather pattern that exists today.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen. They had each seen tough times, but what is going to be unleashed on them is far and above anything they have ever seen. They were frightened.

Jesus was pretty much exhausted. He had been ministering for several days. This was a stretch. A trip across the lake would give Him a definite break. He is so tired, He falls asleep, using a “boat cushion” as a pillow. He is soon sound asleep.

The disciples seem to respect Jesus’ need for rest. But it all gets chaotic and confused quite quickly. None of them had experienced such a terrible storm. They woke Jesus up, and strongly suggested that He do something decisive. Otherwise, they would all be lost.

Jesus was awakened to another need. My guess is that He needed more sleep, but the present moment He needed to speak boldly into this ugly storm. The waves are quite nasty, but at His Word spoken, everything becomes quite serene.

His disciples are undone. They simply draw different conclusions. What they have just seen strips them down to a basic level. The deep presence of Him takes apart of all they understand. God takes them apart, and they end up in a very interesting position.

Our perceptions shouldn’t alter the presence of God. He is our steady rock in our ‘quicksand world.’ He shuts down our storms. You can truly rest with Him in your boat, controlling the storms.


Related: If you grew up in your church you know the song which follows, which is based on today’s scripture text. But if you didn’t give this a listen even if it’s not your usual musical genre.

 

March 14, 2017

After Suffering for 12 Years, A Woman Encounters Jesus

Kelsey Lewis is currently a full time seminary student working on her MDiv at Emory University in Atlanta. She wrote what follows to be part of an oral presentation, but after reading it on her blog Faith(,) in Words I asked her for permission to share it here. Many of us are familiar with the first scripture portion, but it takes the second one to put it in context. Click the title below to read at source.

Within Reach

The following is a manuscript from a short sermon I preached in my Preaching class on February 23, 2017.

 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 5: 24-34

I would like to read one more passage for you. From the book of Leviticus:

19 “ ‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. 20 “ ‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. … 25 “ ‘When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. … 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge. 31 “ ‘You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.’ ”

Leviticus 15:19-31

This is not a passage that you or I have likely heard read aloud in church. However, I wanted to lead with it as I introduced you all to our subject today because these laws followed her everywhere she went. In fact, the words in Mark used to describe her condition, “spring of her blood” were a direct reference to this Levitical passage. She—along with every woman of sexual maturity—but especially she, would have been very familiar with such laws. It was this passage that added insult to the injury of her suffering, keeping her in a perpetual state of uncleanness, unable to touch without contaminating.

All three synoptic gospels give an account of this woman’s story but Mark, usually the most succinct, gives us the most details into her background. The passage characterizes her as one who has suffered. And her suffering is threefold:

  1. She suffers bodily from what is a likely a painful condition, which persists for twelve years of her life. Despite having seen countless doctors, her condition continues to worsen.
  2. She suffers financially, having spent everything she has on failed medical treatment.
  3. She suffers socially.

As alluded to in the passage and as was customary, such a condition would have required her to live outside of the city wall, on the literal margins of society and everyone who came into contact with her would have had to go there too to offer a sacrifice in a purifying ritual, and wait until evening to be ritually clean again. The gospel writer would have us know this about her so that we understand the scandal and the audacity of what happens next.

In an act of desperation, she reaches out for Jesus, touching his robe. . . and it works! She feels herself healed inside. As Christ says, it is her faith that has healed her.

More amazing still is Jesus’ reaction to her touch. I can imagine her fear as Jesus looks around for her and she realizes she has been caught and cannot go unnoticed. But he shows no concern for her impurity. In fact, just after this passage—presumably within the same day in the narrative—he goes to Jairus’ home and grasps the hand of a dead Gentile girl, an act which may have set a record for most purity laws broken at once.

In a stunning reinterpretation of the law, Christ not only liberates her from her bodily physical suffering, he liberates the community around her from fear of her impurity. He shows us this: It is not her impurity which goes forth onto Jesus, but his power that goes out upon her touch. It is not her impurity that is the contagion, but Christ’s power which cannot be contained. Impurity which kept her ostracized for 12 years has no power in the presence of God’s holiness.

No matter how far on the margins you are, no matter how unclean or unfit you or others perceive you to be, Jesus is not beyond your reach. In fact he may be closer than you can imagine. You see, a study of this word “suffering” which in this passage is associated with the pain this woman has endured for twelve years reveals that every other use in the book of Mark and 11 times out of 12 in the entirety of the gospels reveals that suffering is connected with Jesus Christ as the sufferer. The Biblical author would have us associate suffering with the suffering Servant himself.

As the author of Hebrews writes in chapter 13, verse 12:  “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.”

You see, not only does Christ situate himself so that we may reach him in the city among the “pure” folk, but he comes to us, and inhabits that outside, marginal space with the suffering. That is the power of God’s contagious love over our suffering. God has come down, not to contain Godself to the holy of holies, but as an uncontained, unbridled force, extending far beyond the limits of our social constructs, lighting up the darkest corners of unmentionable pain, even out beyond the city gates where the “impure” and “unholy” reside. In Jesus, God climbs down into our suffering with us and redeems it with God’s holy presence, so that as we reach out, we can be assured that God’s power goes out to meet us.

 

November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving

We’re paying a return visit to Rick Morgan, who blogs in the UK at Digging The Word. Click the title below to read at source. This is very timely for our US readers for whom today is the start of the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is actually two different posts, we’re presenting them in reverse order to how Rick had them. Click the individual titles to read at source. Other titles in this series include A Heart of Love Has Peace, A Heart of Love Even When Life Is Difficult, A Heart of Love Joyfully Praises God.

A Heart Of Thanks: Refuses To Forget

Most people are quick to forget where the blessings come from.

Luke 17:11-19 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. 15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you. “


You just met a man that you heard rumors about, and then sure enough you and your friends all cry out for healing, all ten of you get what you asked for.

Which leper are you? You just witnessed ten people healed simultaneously, you being one of them, what do you do?

Do you think the other lepers remained healed? If so, what was the benefit or blessing for the one leper who returned to give thanks?

Does living with a heart of thanks make a difference in your life?

I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been healed from the leprosy of sin, I need to give God thanks for what he has done and what he is still doing in my life.

Thank you Lord for healing me and bringing me back to life! I am an unworthy servant that seeks to obey you fully from a heart of gratitude.

I Will Give Thanks

I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks
I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks (repeat)

For He is good, And His love endures forever
For He is good, And His love endures forever

I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks
I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks

For the Lord has been so good to me
He has blessed my life abundantly
He’s provided, guided, lifted me, He is faithful through it all

O His love endures, yes His love endures
O His love endures, yes His love endures

Can we ever comprehend how good God is to us? I don’t think that we can comprehend or appreciate it before we get to heaven and meet him face to face. Then we will understand why the song says “I will give thanks to the Lord forever!”

Psalms 30:11-12 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give You thanks forever!

As you count your blessings today don’t forget to praise and worship God for the gifts that are impossible to have without him. Things like salvation, true love, the ability to know him and relate to him, if we really appreciate these things then our desires for the stuff that the world has to offer will fade.

October 24, 2016

Freedom from What is Hurting You

Articles here are often a mixture of in-depth Bible study and personal devotions. Sometimes I think we don’t do enough of the latter. Today, we’re again returning to Proverbs 31 Ministries. This time it’s a different writer, Leah DiPascal. Click the title below to read this on their site.

When the Struggles of Life Knock You Over

“When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13 (NIV)

She heard His voice but couldn’t see Him clearly. The surrounding crowds had blocked her view.

Bent over at the waist and unable to stand up straight, she strained to get a good glimpse of Him. Then, unexpectedly, He’d called her forward.

I imagine her heart was racing as she slowly shuffled her way to the front of the synagogue.

Why would Jesus single her out of the crowd? Was He going to make a spectacle of her brokenness? Or expose her deepest pain and darkest secrets?

As the crowds around her murmured, each step toward Jesus felt as if she were lugging the weight of the world behind her.

For 18 years, her body had been crippled. Eighteen long, exhausting years.

She certainly had plenty of reasons not to go to the synagogue that Sabbath morning. Why subject herself to the possible harsh stares and hurtful comments? Yet she was there, listening intently to the teachings of Jesus.

She didn’t say a word. She didn’t try to get His attention. She simply stood in His presence, soaking in the life-giving statements that gave her hope in the midst of her hopeless situation.

But Jesus saw her. Jesus had compassion for her. Jesus loved and wanted to heal her. And in one swift statement, those 18 long, exhausting years came to a screeching halt.

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b).

With the gentle touch of His hands, warmth flowed through her body, and she suddenly realized she was standing upright. She no longer strained to get a glimpse of Jesus … she now saw Him face to face.

With a burst of joy, bondage gave way to freedom and she exhaled in worshipful praise and adoration to her Lord. Her healer. Her bondage breaker.

Scripture doesn’t tell us her name, but I think we all can relate to this woman in one way or another. Maybe you see a small part of her story that rings true in your own life, connecting you though years separate. Could it be:

  • An ailment that physically restricts your body and makes you feel weak?
  • A spiritual battle keeping you in bondage to the enemy?
  • An unwanted flaw that draws painful attention and hurtful comments from others?
  • A heavy heart filled with shattered dreams and stinging emotions?
  • A burden you carry, causing you to shuffle through life feeling alone, unwanted or disposable?

Whatever has made your life seem long and exhausting, Jesus can repair it by His powerful presence, His comforting words and His healing touch.

He loves you. He longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show compassion so you can stand upright again.

Assured. Secure. Enveloped in His comforting embrace.

You are never lost in the crowd because you have captivated Jesus’ heart. His gaze is always fixed on you.

He sees your pain. He’s aware of your affliction. He knows your struggles.

Like the woman in the synagogue, come as you are — with all that makes you feel less than. Draw near to Jesus, soak in His life-giving Word and wait expectantly to hear Him speak freedom over your situation:

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b). Jesus did it for her … and He can do it for you too!

Lord, I come to You today and lay all my burdens at Your feet. Take the emotional and mental weight I’ve been carrying so that I can stand upright again. Draw near to me. Heal me. Free me. I want to live assured, secure and continuously aware of Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 30:18, “The LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (NIV)

Psalm 145:14, “The LORD supports all who fall, and lifts up all who are bent over.” (NET)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
I would’ve loved to see Jesus miraculously heal that precious woman in the synagogue on that Sabbath day. It’s beautiful how her very first response was to praise God. How do you express gratitude for all God has done in your life? What are some things you can praise Him for today?

October 1, 2016

“I Am Willing”

This is our sixth visit with Ben Nelson at the blog Another Red Letter Day. He has been faithfully writing since June 2012, and if you click the title below, you can then browse other posts.

I Am Willing

Join me in Mark 1 today and let’s think about what Jesus said in these three little words. But first … a little context.

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” – Mark 1:40-41 NASB

Jesus ran into people every day during His ministry years. It is in fact why He came, to seek and to save the lost, to run into people and bring the kingdom of heaven into their lives. No two of the folks He encountered were alike. It was not as though everyone who came to Him for a miracle came with the same level of faith and expectation.

Some knew deep inside that if they could reach Him, they would find healing, like the woman with the issue of blood.

for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” – Matthew 9:21 NASB

Some were not even sure He had any power whatsoever.

“It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” – Mark 9:22 NASB

Some understood He was not limited to proximity, and could heal across the miles like the centurion.

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. – Matthew 8:8 NASB

So what about this leper we meet in Mark 1? He had a concern I often hear voiced in Evangelical circles. It’s common thought today that Jesus can still heal and does still heal, but it is linked to some sort of whim or fancy or divine fiat. We come to the Lord in prayer asking for healing as though we hoping He’s in a good mood and might just condescend to do us a little favor and heal our loved one.

This phrase only comes up five times in the NASB and three of them are three accounts of this event. One is when Jesus is talking about John the baptist, explaining that he was Elijah who would come. The only other time we hear this phrase is in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cries out to the Father:

saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” – Luke 22:42 NASB

Many have adopted this phrase as part of their prayer life.

Here’s the thing.

Jesus answered the question.

He answered this man in no uncertain terms.

He could have simply healed the leper to demonstrate His will without saying a word.

But Jesus—the Word of God—the very Will of God incarnate—the express image of God—Jesus—answered.

I am willing!

And if this doesn’t answer it for you with enough clarity, look at His ministry. He healed all who came to Him. Time after time we see Him heal them all.

The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. – Matthew 4:24 NASB

But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, – Matthew 12:15 NASB

We are not calling out to God for something unclear, or something unprecedented.

Jesus, in the Garden, placed Himself into a circumstance we could never see. He was facing separation from the Father, He was facing the cup of God’s wrath stored up against all our sin and the prospected was horrifying.

This is not our case when the come to the Lord Jesus for our healing. He told us His name is Jehovah Rapha – the Lord our Healer.

I understand that when we are talking about our future James tells us to leave it in the Lord’s hands.

Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” – James 4:15 NASB

But James is not teaching us to pray. He’s talking about our attitude toward life.

Jesus Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever, said without hesitation:

“I am willing; be cleansed.” – Matthew 8:3 NASB

Hallelujah! (That’s a place for shouting!)

September 16, 2016

Our Faith Should Be More Than Just a Coping Mechanism

john-10-10When I have finished formatting a devotional study here, the last thing I do before scheduling it is to add the tags; the key words that can be used to locate the article in a search engine or internally. Many times I find myself writing trials, tribulations, suffering, difficulties, trials, etc. Often when I listen to a couple of preachers in my car, I notice they are often simply offering their listeners encouragement through desert experience, tough times, difficult circumstances.

I keep thinking there should be more.

I keep thinking that our faith should be more than just a mechanism by which we can cope with the hard times of life.

In John 10:10 Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NLT)

One of the first sermons I remember was hearing this preached at an outdoor Christian music festival. The speaker said that in the original language the abundant life being discussed was:

  1. Abundant in quantity
  2. Superior in quality

We see picture of this abundance in quantity in the feeding of the 5,000

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

And we see a picture of the superior quality in the very first miracle at Cana

John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Both seem to be describing a feast. The latter, at the wedding is expected. The former, with each receiving “as much as they wanted” was probably a surprise.

In each case the final verse reveals the ultimate outcome:

  1. They recognize that he is the prophet, the one expected
  2. He reveals his glory and his disciples believe.

At the blog, Yeshua=God (also the source of today’s graphic image) the contrast in John 10:10 is fully highlighted:

Whenever John 10:10 is quoted, it’s usually just the first half about Satan, or the last half about Christ. It’s not often you hear the entire verse quoted together. But the Lord showed me recently in my personal study time that this Scripture is meant to reflect what Satan does compared to what the Lord does. It is meant to be read as a whole, to compare and contrast the enemy verses the Lord.

Let’s break it down –

The thief does not come except to STEAL, KILL, and DESTROY.
The Lord comes that they MAY HAVE, LIFE, MORE ABUNDANTLY

The opposite of steal would be to give. When our Lord says they “may have”, He’s referring to the gift of His salvation. Not necessarily “will have”, because some people don’t become Christians. Therefore He comes that they “may have” this gift.

The opposite of kill is to give life. Christ does give life, as He IS the Life. So while the thief wants to steal and kill, the Lord has come to give the gift of Life.

The opposite of destroy is more abundantly. To destroy something is to pull it down, wreck it, demolish, obliterate, or ruin it. To have something in abundance is to have plenty of it, it is lavished upon you, bountiful, copious, and plentiful.

Notice how the words are all present tense. Kill, steal, destroy – these are ongoing, they are in the here and now. He has not “stolen, killed, and destroyed”, it is what the thief continues to do. When the Lord gives His rebuttal, His words are present tense as well. May have instead of “have had”. Life that’s ongoing and eternal, rather than one that can be killed. And more abundantly instead of “in abundance”. It assumes a continuance of the abundance – “more abundantly” – as if the abundance is an ever-flowing fountain.

But then the author points out that the life we can expect is even more:

The Lord gives us life, and not just life, but life more abundantly. A better life than these 70-80 years on earth. A life that continues on into eternity. A life with blessings that never end (Ephesians 1:3).

We tend to focus on our pain and difficulties, but be encouraged to look for the signs of abundance.

I Kings 18:41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”

45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel

 

December 24, 2015

The Life That Changed the World

Several years ago I was reading a new book by an author completely unknown to me, so I went hunting around the back pages for some kind of “about the author” section, whereupon I learned that he was best known for founding an organization and an annual conference. That type of endorsement is meant to impress, and it does. Certainly I’ve never done those things.

Maybe it was because it was quite late, but my mind went to a piece of prose (sometimes rendered as poetry) known as One Solitary Life. It turns up on tracts, on Christmas cards, and even email forwards.

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.

While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends deserted him. He was turned over to his enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had – his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of people on this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”

Most sources online credit this to Dr. James Allan Francis.

In light of what I mentioned above, I just wanted to add “he never founded a charitable organization, never established an annual conference.” To which you could add, “He wasn’t on Twitter, He didn’t have a website or a blog, or a Christian television show.”

That reminded me of a section of a quotation from Philip Yancey (see below) which says, “When He did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up;” so I did a search of the phrase “not to tell anyone.”

The healing of a blind man:

Mark 7:35-37

35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The revelation of His identity:

Mark 8:29-31

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Immediately following the transfiguration:

Luke 9:35-37

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

The raising of Jarius’ daughter:

Luke 8:55-56

55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

All of which points us to Phil. 2:6

6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. (CEB)

6 who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage. (HCSB)

I would add, ‘Did not consider equality with God something to be leveraged.’

Despite this, no one who has ever lived as ever affected the history of mankind so richly, so deeply, so powerfully as this One Solitary Life.

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company. “One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” ~~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

Quotations today are from the New International Version (NIV) except where noted

December 19, 2015

Does Your Hearing Need Healing?

A shorter reading today, but one rich in application This is from Adrian Plass, from the book You, Me and Mark (previously published as Never Mind the Reversing Ducks).

Mark 7:31-37New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Cures a Deaf Man

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

adrian plassSensitive as ever, Jesus takes this deaf man well away from crowds and noise so that he will not be overwhelmed by a cacophony of sounds when his hearing is restored.  Are the fingers in the ears and the spitting on the tongue part of the healing process, or, as seems more likely, was Jesus simply miming what he was about to? Another interesting but unanswerable question.  But here is one indisputable fact.  For this man, the first sound to emerge from a lifelong well of silence was the voice of the Son of God.  Not a bad way to start, was it?  For as long as he lived he would never forget the voice that called him out of silence and bewilderment into a new way of life.

It may seem blunderingly symbolic to say so but many of the Christians that I meet have forgotten the tone and content of the voice that first called them to follow their master without question.  There are so many other voices that come crashing in with opinions and doctrines and advice and temptations and distractions.

Move away from those other sounds to a private place away from the crowd.  Close your eyes.  Listen hard.  Do you hear that voice coming out of the silence, the voice that first commanded your eyes to be opened and your ears to be unblocked?  Do your vision and your hearing need to healed again?  His gentle touch is upon you.  Open your eyes and listen with your ears.  There are old and new things to see and hear.


I want to know you; I want to hear your voice…


C201 New LinkMission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

May 4, 2015

Cana, Covenant, and Christ

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is an awesome post by Hardin Crowder, a blogger I’ve been reading regularly for many months. I believe it’s his first time here at C201. Click the title below and read this in its original format.

The Joy Behind The Wedding at Cana

When God Attends Your Wedding

I absolutely adore weddings, and I believe that God does too. I don’t think it is an accident that the human story in the Bible both begins and ends with a wedding. I also don’t think that it is an accident that Jesus’ first public miracle took place during a wedding celebration:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “ Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “ Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “ Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “ Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “ Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

– John 2:1-11

One has to wonder why, of all the times and places, this seemingly uneventful wedding was where Jesus chose to perform his first public miracle. This miracle wasn’t performed in front of Kings, or Pharisees, or great men of power and influence. This miracle was performed in front of servants. It was performed at a wedding for a couple who couldn’t even afford enough wine to feed their guests.

One also has to wonder why, of all the miracles that could have been performed, did Christ decide to do something so trivial as providing refreshments. Why not start off by feeding the 5,000, or walking on water, or healing the lame? Does a wine shortage at a wedding really merit a miracle?

The New Covenant Wine

One thing I love about the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus is that an event can have multiple meanings. On the surface level, this is simply an act of kindness on the part of Christ. The poor groom had served all the wine he could afford, but it was not enough to satisfy his guests. Everyone attending the wedding would soon know that this groom had reached his limits and had come up short. He had failed to fulfill his duties. Christ’s intervention spared the poor groom the embarrassment of having to own up to his inability in front of all his friends and family.

There is, however, an even deeper meaning here. Jesus could have taken water from any source and turned it into wine, or perhaps even caused wine to appear out of thin air, but he didn’t. Jesus specifically told the servants to use the water from stone jars set apart for Jewish rites of purification.

These jars were used for ceremonial washing, and represented a core element of the Laws of Moses. They were used to protect jewish purity and make sure that people stayed ritually clean. The water from these jars washed away your dirtiness, at least on the surface level, and symbolically covered up the sins of the people. This was not simply drinking water. It served a specific purpose, and Jesus requested it to be used for this miracle.

Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was at this moment fundamentally changing everything. He was saying that these jars no longer need to be used for this purpose of ritual cleanliness. The ritual purity of the law of Moses was no longer necessary to hide your sin. No longer do you need to cover your sin and shame with ritual washings, for Christ has come and a new covenant is upon us!

He took the water meant to cover sin, and turned it into wine for a celebration!

Christ Is Better

Once the water is turned into wine and presented to the master of the feast, he declares that “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, the the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

On the surface one can read this passage and think, “Of course Jesus’ wine is better. What benefit would there be to making miraculously mediocre wine?”

There is, however, a deeper truth to be found here as well. The master of the feast was right when he says that “Everyone serves the good wine first.” I know that I am guilty of this in more ways than one. Human beings like to be loved, and as a result we often present and idealized version of ourselves to others. We put on masks and filter ourselves to make sure that the people around us only see the good side. Only once a person has tasted our “good wine” do we let them see our “poor wine” as well.

All of us are playing a part, hoping to impress. We put out as much “good wine” as we can possibly muster up, and only show our “poor wine” when we have to.  All of us, like the poor groom, are terrified of being left empty and ashamed. We fear that once we have given our all, it will not be enough.

That’s where Jesus comes in. He picks up where you fall short. He accomplishes what you and I never could.

With Jesus the best is always yet to come. When your walk with Christ first begins it is like tasting good wine for the very first time. One wonders how they ever could have thought the poor wine of the world was ever worth anything. One thinks that it can never get better than this, and to their surprise it does.

I’ve been a Christian for several years now, and never once has Christ failed to amaze me. The deeper I go in my walk with him, the sweeter and more beautiful his gospel is. Times of prayer grow from being a chore, to being the highlight of every day. Reading scripture goes from an obligation to becoming a bottomless well of inspiration. His commands stop seeming like limitations as we begin to catch glimpses of the joy that is the faithful Christian life. Jesus becomes your all, and you begin to realize that in Him is a peace, joy, and fulfillment that (like a fine wine) only grows greater with time.

It is no coincidence that the Bible describes the Church as the Bride of Christ. He is the groom we all need. He provides the wine that never runs out, and always proves to be better. We are simply called to taste and see that the Lord is good!

Are You Empty?

Are you willing to admit that even our best can only hope to mask the fact that we simply aren’t good enough?

Are you willing to admit that, though you might put out your best for everyone, you know that you can’t keep up appearances forever, and you are afraid that one day people might just sees the real you?

Are you worried that one day you are going to run dry? Or maybe you are completely spent already, and you don’t know where else to turn?

Are you tired of falling into the same messes? Tired of trying to get yourself clean, only to find that the stains never fully go away?

If that is you I have good news…

Christ is enough

Christ sees the real you, and wants the real you to be his bride.

He died for you to save you at your very worst.

He will not let your cup run dry, he will fill you up so that you never thirst again.

His sacrifice is enough to wash away all your sins in a way that soap and water never could, and he takes great joy in washing you white as snow (or perhaps white as the dress of a bride on her wedding day).

Christ is seeking out his bride and calling her home, will you come?

 

March 23, 2014

What Does a Carpenter Know About Fishing?

If you go back to the first couple of years of C201, you know we often linked to Kevin Rogers’ blog The Orphan Age. Kevin has been very faithful to his ministry in southwestern Ontario, Canada, and has updated his blog almost daily for years and years! This post was originally titled Another Option.

Our greatest answers may sometimes come from unexpected sources. Consider the seasoned fishermen taking advice from a stranger on the shore.

John 21:

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

These first century fishermen had one lake. All of their experience came from fishing with tried and true methods. From years of successfully harvesting the lake, they knew how to recognize its seasons, currents and conditions. They knew what sort of fish swam in its depths. Perhaps, they had reached a point where they were experts and could laugh at the new, inexperienced people starting out.

Still, their nets were empty this night. As experts, they could probably explain why there was no catch tonight.

The stranger on the shore asks if they caught any. “No.” It’s a one-word answer that may reveal that they are tired and defeated. It’s time to quit and head back to land. They have nothing to show for their time spent. They are returning empty.

In the state of emptiness, is it possible that we will consider a voice that we might ignore when full?

If the story had gone that they had a full catch and the stranger suggested throwing the net on the other side; who would have listened? Emptiness and humility may be necessary for us to hear truth coming from unexpected places.

Empty Nets If a church is to hear what the Spirit is saying to it, there will need to be a condition of heart that is open to suggestion. How might Jesus speak to us expert believers and tell us to drop net on the other side?

Could it be that we sometimes pull in empty nets to prepare us for listening to unlikely counsel? In the boat, they did not recognize that God was speaking to them from the stranger on the shore. But when the nets filled on the other side, they realized that Jesus was the stranger. It is a reoccurring story in the gospels that people did not recognize Jesus until something happened. We may miss Jesus’ voice and presence many times until we awaken to Him.

The fishermen thought it was a hopeless night and did not realize that success was right under their noses. The success was waiting where they were not going on their own.

November 21, 2013

Jesus in the Margins

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Although today’s devotional has no specific key verse, it ends with a powerful poem which alludes to several well-known Bible narratives. The author is Julie Cochrane of Australia, her blog is called Life-Times-Two and I encourage you to click through to read this piece, Margins: Limitations or Possibilities?

I’ve discovered there are two ways to look at a margin.

A margin can be a boundary – fringe, sideline, edge, or it can be a surplus – room, scope, profit. One definition speaks of limitation, the other of possibility.

After mulling over these definitions for a couple of days I saw something beautiful emerge.

I saw how Jesus transitioned people from one margin to the other, from the fringe of Insignificance to the place of discovering the surplus of Potential within themselves.

Jesus always gravitated to the marginalized. One moment He is preaching to thousands on a hillside, the next, He’s crossing treacherous waters in a small fishing boat in search of a madman in a cemetery.

A read through the Gospels exposes Jesus constantly searching for the Overlooked, the Unnoticed on the fringes of communities he travelled through – the lepers, the sex-workers, the widows, the misplaced, the people struggling with their demons. Jesus understood their plight – after all, who could identify more with being marginalized than Jesus himself? His compassion drove him to open blind eyes, release the oppressed and preach good news to the poor.

Yet for each one, every single person, the healing encounter with Jesus went beyond merely the physical aspect of their lives.

Jesus looked into their eyes. He scanned their souls. He found that place of deepest need – the Need-to-Belong, the Need-to-be-Valued, and he touched them there. And his touch repositioned them – both in their own thinking, and in the perceptions of those around them.

Encounters with Jesus gave the Insignificant value, and the Sidelined purpose.
Those encounters allowed each one to sense their own value and uncover the empowerment that comes from that. These Anonymous Ones uncovered the surplus of the unlived life within themselves and tapped into it’s potential. For these Fringe-dwellers their purpose had now been defined, and they were empowered to move on in life with dignity and influence. Their place of residence shifted from Obscurity to Significance.

Zaccheus grew in spiritual stature the day he met Jesus; the Samaritan Woman became an ambassador for genuine love; Bartemaus became a man of vision; a Roman Centurion began winning spiritual battles; the Tax Collector became a benefactor; the Psychopath became an evangelist.

Our mission is to complete what Jesus started in our world.

We should find ourselves constantly scanning the horizon in search of the Lost, the Forgotten, and the Exiled, and introduce them to a Jesus encounter.

They live in the bewildering place of fatherlessness, in the insidious place of bullying, in the distressing place of poverty, in the horrific place of human trafficking, and in the empty place of fame of fortune. We will find them at checkouts, mothers’ groups, in jails, in church, over the neighbouring fence, in our own families. They are all around us, searching for inclusion, and a purpose for living. Sometimes all it takes is a cheery word to the woman cleaning the Rest Room, a coffee date with the new single mum at school, some time for the old man who lost track of his family years ago, a welcoming smile to the overweight woman hiding at the back of the room … it’s not that hard!

That search for belonging, that incessant hunger for value is the prompt that has led us all to Jesus. We were, at one time or another, all lost until we found Jesus walking towards us with arms outstretched.

He stopped amidst the swirling, stifling, suffocating crowd.
“Who touched me?”
The woman trembled, bloodied, afraid.
She knelt before the Lord of Ones and whispered her confession.
And He, who would one day Himself be bloodied
for Ones such as this said,
“Be healed.”

He slept through the storm as they crossed the Lake,
While the Madman waited in turmoil amongst the tombs.
Naked, too strong for chains and irons, yet hopelessly bound,
He ran and fell at the feet of the Lord of Ones.
And He who would one day be bound in the place
of Ones such as this said,
“Be free.”

He sat and watched the Rich and Powerful throw in their coins.
The Widow came, unnoticed, yet seen.
She gave out of her poverty two small coins of infinite value.
“She gave her all,” mused the Lord of Ones.
And He who left the wealth of Heaven in order to give His all for Ones such as this said,
“Be blessed.”

He stood alone as the crowd hurriedly dispersed.
“Unclean!” they reviled, and hissed and cowered.
The Leper knelt before the Lord of Ones and pleaded, “If you are willing..”
And He who would soon be defiled by the sins
of Ones such as this,
Reached out and touched, and said,
“Be clean.”

I wait, speck in an ocean, grain of sand on a beach,
Bloodied, bound, impoverished, unclean.
Overcome by His Presence, overwhelmed by His Grace, “I come to worship,” I whisper.
And the Lord of Ones who died in my place embraces me,
And draws me in.
With words that echo across time and eternity
He whispers back,
“We are one.”

© Julie Cochrane 2013

Today Jesus will transition one more soul from the margin of limitation to the margin of possibility. Let’s remain alert, on call, so we don’t miss the opportunity to partner with him on the journey.

October 19, 2013

Why Did Jesus…? Part Two

Tody we continue where left off yesterday. There are no specific scriptures for this one, you’ll need to refer back to the verses posted here the day before.  Louisiana pastor Waylon Bailey has treated this subject well at the article titled Why Did Jesus Tell His Followers Not To Tell About Him?

We all know and understand that Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching. That part makes sense. Everyone needs to know Christ. We all also understand that we have been given the responsibility to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

That makes the question even more difficult to comprehend. What did Jesus mean when he repeatedly told the people around him not to tell anyone what they had seen and heard? And, why did He tell them this? Mark 1:40-45 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It shows Jesus as He truly is. Having encountered a man with leprosy, Jesus had great compassion on the man. His heart went out to Him. Jesus healed the man of his leprosy. After the healing Jesus “sternly warned” the man to tell no one. He simply was to go to the priest as prescribed by the law of Moses. Instead, the man told everyone what had happened. This story is fairly representative of all those who were told to tell no one.

Why did Jesus tell him not to tell anyone?

The issue primarily seems to be one of timing and proximity.

After the resurrection, Jesus repeatedly and consistently told His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Each of the Gospels has its own commission to take the message to the world. We commonly call this the Great Commission.

It was in the time before the resurrection that Jesus counseled His disciples and others not to publish widely what they had seen and heard.

Why was this the case?

First, Jesus did not want people to only associate Him with the miraculous. He was the bringer of good tidings not simply a miracle worker.

Second, Jesus did not want people to make Him an earthly king. We know that many Jews looked for the kind of Messiah who could overthrow Rome. It would be an easy step for all of the people to miss the significance of what Jesus came to do. As long as Jesus turned water into wine and a few loaves and fish into abundance, the people wanted to follow Him.

Third, Jesus wanted the freedom to move about Israel unhindered. When the man cleansed of his leprosy disobeyed Jesus and began to publish the matter “Jesus could not enter any town openly but stayed outside in lonely places” (Mark 1:45). Many other towns were deprived of the Lord’s presence. Jesus had not wanted that to happen.

Interestingly, Jesus told those outside Israel to proclaim the message. The fifth chapter of Mark is quite interesting. Jesus healed the demoniac from the Decapolis (largely Gentile area). He told him to go back home and tell what the Lord had done for him (Mark 5:19). In the same chapter he healed the daughter of the leader of the Synagogue and told them to tell no one (Mark 5:43). It was a matter of proximity. Inside Israel, the messianic fervor might lead to a premature confrontation with Rome or the Jewish leaders. Jesus “hour” had not yet come.

We live in this wonderful new age when all must hear the message of Good News.

Considering this subject for the past two days has reminded me of this quotation from Walter Wink that Philip Yancey uses:

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company.

“One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” 

~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

October 18, 2013

Why Did Jesus Sometimes Ask Miracle Witnesses to Tell No One?

Jesus - Don't tell anyone

Doug Wolter posted this several months ago as Why did Jesus say, “Don’t tell others?”:

Yesterday I preached on four incredible stories from Mark 4:35-5:43 where Jesus calms the storm, heals the demoniac and the hemorrhaging woman, and raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead.  Afterwards, a member of my church asked me a great question: Why did Jesus tell the demon possessed man to go and tell others but told the ones who saw Jairus’ daughter being raised to strictly tell no one?  What a great question!  Here’s my response:

The demon-possessed man was in a Gentile region where not many knew about Jesus or cared about the coming Messiah. In Mark 5:17, after Jesus had healed the man, they begged him to leave the area.  Jesus left, but told the demoniac to go and tell what had happened to him since he would now be the only real witness in this region (Mark 5:19).

Now Jairus and his daughter lived in Galilee. This region would’ve been Jewish and therefore anticipating a coming Messiah and so Jesus wanted to keep this a secret because he didn’t want to stir up a big crowd.  The concern on Jesus’ part was that people’s attention would be distracted from what he really came to do, namely, the ministry of the word (Mark 1:38).  His essential aim was to preach repentance and faith (the message of the kingdom) and then die on a cross. After he died and rose again, that’s when he told his disciples to go and tell everyone who he was because that was the real message he came to bring as the Messiah.

Of course there are many of these passages:

Healing of Many:

Matthew 12:15 …A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him.

Peter’s Confession of Christ’s Lordship and Divinity:

Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

(also found in Mark 8 and Luke 9)

Returning from the Mountain of the Transfiguration:

Mark 9:2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus….

…8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Casting Out Demons:

Mark 3:11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

The Healing of a Deaf Man:

Mark 7:35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Healing of Jarius’ Daughter:

Luke 8:51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother… 

…54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Are Jesus’ reasons the same in each case, or do you think that there were different motivations for asking people not to tell what they had seen?

Jesus - Don't tell anyone 2

March 7, 2013

One Solitary Life

Last night I was reading a new book by an author completely unknown to me, so I went hunting around the back pages for some kind of “about the author” section, whereupon I learned that he was best known for founding an organization and an annual conference.

Maybe it was because it was quite late, but my mind went to a piece of prose (sometimes rendered as poetry) known as One Solitary Life. It turns up on tracts, on Christmas cards, and even email forwards.

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.

While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends deserted him. He was turned over to his enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had – his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of people on this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”

Most sources online credit this to Dr. James Allan Francis.

In light of what I was reading, I just wanted to add “he never founded a charitable organization, never established an annual conference.” To which you could add, “He wasn’t on Twitter, He didn’t have a website or a blog.” That reminded me of a section of a quotation from Philip Yancey (see below) which says, “When He did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up;” so I did a search of the phrase “not to tell anyone.”

The healing of a blind man:

Mark 7:35-37

35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The revelation of His identity:

Mark 8:29-31

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Immediately following the transfiguration:

Luke 9:35-37

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

The raising of Jarius’ daughter:

Luke 8:55-56

55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

All of which points us to Phil. 2:6

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.  (CEB)

who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.  (HCSB)

I would add, ‘Did not consider equality with God something to be leveraged.’

Despite this, no one who has ever lived as ever affected the history of mankind so richly, so deeply, so powerfully as this One Solitary Life.

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company. “One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” ~~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

Quotations today are from the New International Version (NIV) except where noted

August 16, 2011

Concurrent Events

I know I repost from DailyEncouragement.Net frequently, but I really enjoy their writing.  This one was rather short and on the surface really simple, but I kept being drawn back to it; as it really got me thinking about how God both orchestrates events and uses events in our lives.  I had to steal borrow a picture from this one for it to make sense, so I hope that in exchange, you’ll consider linking directly to their site to read this, where it appeared Friday under the title, Wrong-Way Concurrence.

Last week I shared a photo of an interstate directional sign I took along our journey and inquired as to what “spiritual” lesson there might be in the photo. It happens to be an example of what is known as a “wrong way concurrence”.

Now in highway verbiage a concurrence occurs when two numbered routes use the same section of road. For instance in our area US Routes 11 and 15 run together through central Pennsylvania so that for awhile you are on both 11 North and 15 North at the same time.

A wrong way concurrence occurs when two routes run together but in apparently opposite directions. In the case of the photo there is a section where you are on I-81 north and I-77 south at the same time near Wytheville Virginia. The routes run concurrently seemingly in opposite directions based on the signage! (See below for a Google map)  

In his book, “The Invisible Hand”, theologian R.C. Sproul points out that “the doctrine of concurrence refers to historical events in which the work of Providence has been acted out through human agencies. This means at the same time human agents are acting, God is acting in and through them.”

Today’s story is found in John 6:1-13 and recounts an occasion when a great crowd had followed Jesus to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus then instructed His disciples to provide a meal for the thousands who had gathered rather than sending them home to eat. Trouble is, He gave no instructions on how they were to successfully carry out this impossible feat. Philip, who apparently had some accounting background quickly calculated, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (Rather impressive math, since this was before they had “smart” phones.)

Another disciple, Andrew, brought a boy to Jesus who had “five small barley loaves and two small fish”. Now I find the preciseness in the description interesting, especially the designation “small” in both cases.  I suppose the boy’s mother had packed him a lunch adequate for his needs. Perhaps he, in his simple logic, approached Andrew with the offering of his lunch. Andrew probably felt a bit foolish suggesting this meager offering to Jesus so he followed it up with this sensible question,  “but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus didn’t answer him or try to reason with him. He had the people sit down and performed a mighty miracle of multiplication.

Today we need to understand that God is active even in the most mundane parts of our lives in ways that may seem senseless, such as the boy’s tiny contribution. This little boy had no idea when he took his lunch that day that he would be memorialized in Scripture, but the Lord used his tiny portion to feed a vast crowd of 5,000, with leftovers to boot!

God is still working in the “mundane” today.  And he’s still working in ways that may be similar to a wrongway concurrence. This little boy should give us incentive to heed the words of Paul: “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16).

Small, seemingly insignificant, acts of faith and obedience have a major part in the mosaic of God’s master plan for our lives.  We may desire to do something great for God, but often His plan is the simple day by day acts of obedience to Him in following His leadings, both large and small.  We’ll just have to wait and see how it all fits together.  May the Lord help us, like the young boy and Andrew, to do what is within our power and trust God for the results!

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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