Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 27: 4000 fed with a few fish

Then Jesus called the disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days and they have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry since they may faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where can we get enough bread in this desolate place to satisfy so great a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven—and a few small fish.” After instructing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and after giving thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples, who then gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Not counting children and women, there were four thousand men who ate.  (Matthew 15:32-38  NET)

Compassion can make people weak and emotional—but here Jesus’ compassion made Him powerful and intelligent. He noticed that the people who had stuck with Him for three days because of their hunger for the word of God had run out of food, and would be weak or sick if they tried to make it home on empty stomachs, and so He decided to feed them. They weren’t going to die of hunger, but He knew it would be better for them to eat. The twelve did not notice this, only Jesus did, and if He noticed a small, unspoken problem with this group of people 2000 years ago, how will He not do the same for you and me today? 

Whenever we do what is right like these people (staying in a deserted place for days in order to learn from Jesus and receive healing), even when we don’t know how things are going to turn out in the end, our faith to be obedient to Him causes God to identify our needs and provide for us. Too many times we try to plan everything out and stay in control, which leads to worldly thinking and a lack of trust in God. What we need to do is identify the course of action that pleases God the most, whether or not we know how it will turn out in the end, and do it. God will take care of the rest.

A man I’ve recently learned a lot from is in a habit of saying: “Lift up your head. It’ll all turn out right!” This is the attitude we need to have when we have faith in God.

The other lesson in this passage is the contrast between Jesus’ desire to feed people (there must have been over 12,000 people if the men numbered 4000) and the disciples’ attitude of “Where can we get enough bread in this desolate place?” Jesus was determined to feed the crowd, the disciples were focused on why it couldn’t be done. Isn’t this one of our biggest problems in life? If we look for excuses as to why something cannot work, we’ll find a million. God never asks us whether or not something is physically possible—if we have the money or the skill—He asks us if we have faith, and if we do, the physically impossible will become possible.

It’s not enough to go to church, read the Bible, and be a good person. God is calling us to a life of faith, of making the impossible possible for the glory of His name. This passage is not meant to be a wonderful story of how powerful Jesus was, it is meant as a model for us today. Every time we’re faced with hungry people that can’t be fed, we need to have the guts and audacity to feed them.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26: My peace I give you

I have spoken these things while staying with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.  (John 14:25-27  NET)

Here Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit that the Father would send to His disciples, after His return to the Father. The word that is translated “advocate” could also mean “counselor”, “helper”, or “comforter”. In fact, English does not have a word that does justice to this particular word in Greek, it is a mix of all these terms, but in this context Jesus explains how His disciples could count on Him to teach them everything they would need to know, and remind them of the teachings of Jesus. Though the disciples had already been with Him for three and a half years, they would need this supernatural guidance and direction when Jesus was gone. How much more do we—who have not had the privilege of physically living with Jesus—need the Holy Spirit’s help.

God has given us His written word, the Bible, and His Spirit—the same Spirit that inspired and directed the writers of God’s Holy Word. Therefore the Spirit, who is within us, will never tell us, or lead us to do anything that is contradictory to the Word of God. Instead, He will help us to understand and obey the Word.

Jesus also mentions peace in this passage. This is God’s peace, not the world’s version of peace, and as He explains, when we truly experience this peace we do not live in a constant state of distress and fear. True children of God know that God is with them and that nothing in this world has the power to decide their future. They have peace because they are aware of the authority they have in the Lord Jesus Christ, and because they have the conviction that they are saved. This does not mean that we are simply peace-lovers; the person who truly experiences the peace of God, by definition, must be at war with the devil, demons, sin, his flesh, and the world. Without this warrior like attitude, the peace of God cannot exist.

Many people today want peace at any cost… they want all nations of the world to be at peace with one another, they want to empathize with terrorists, to be accepting of all points of view… even churches want to forget their differences, water-down their messages, and live in unity. But we must understand that peace cannot exist without war, love cannot exist without hate. To truly experience God’s peace, I must be at war with Satan, and to truly love God, I must hate the devil. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25: The Holy Spirit prays for you!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. (Romans 8:26,27 NET)

This is a wonderful scripture! It tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. The Spirit of God is the One who makes Christians strong, wise, and bold. But the special way the Spirit helps in these verses is by interceding for us when we don't know how to pray as we should. We pray the best we can constantly, and the Spirit combines His prayers with ours. His prayers are so powerful and fervent that they cannot be expressed in human speech. But God who knows our hearts, knows also the mind of the Spirit.

Those who are wise understand that there is more to us than our physical minds and bodies.  The core of our being is spirit, and there are times that our spirit is starved for communion with God’s Spirit.  People with no faith, try to feed that hunger with everything but God, and still feel unsatisfied.  But there are also those who do believe, and yet still starve their spirit by not taking time to commune with God, to speak with him from the depths of their soul and listen to Him respond.  Christians can be so full of busy-work, even in church activities, and ignore the yearnings and aching of their own spirit that desperately needs to connect with God.

Speaking in tongues is a way in which God allows all those yearnings and unspoken desires of our spirit to reach out and speak to Him in a heavenly language.  Our spirits are fed and edified, and our inner being experiences God’s presence and peace when we allow this to occur.  But speaking in tongues is only for those who have been cleansed of evil spirits (repentance and revolt against sin), born of God (obedience, sacrifice and change of character) and baptized in the Holy Spirit (the bearing of the Spirit’s fruit).  

It’s amazing to have your spirit to commune directly with God’s Spirit.  If you are not yet baptized in the Holy Spirit, seek it earnestly beginning today.  Your spiritual life will be transformed.

Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24: Three thousand people saved

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.  (Acts 2:36-41  NET)

The Jewish Pentecost was one of the seven yearly feast days of the Jews. It was exactly seven weeks after the Passover and celebrated the first fruits of the new grain harvest. Since it was the first harvest after the winter, people were normally running low on food and it was a test of their faith in God to give the tenth of this harvest, trusting that God would give other harvests during that year.

Right before Peter speaks the first phrase of today’s passage, the Holy Spirit had been poured out to 120 people gathered in the upper room, then after they had spoken to the people, 3000 were baptized and saved. Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit was given during a feast that was meant to celebrate abundance after a long, dry spell? The outpouring of God’s Spirit was God’s way of bringing refreshment and relief to a world that was empty and dry.

How could 3000 people respond to the message that day and want to be baptized? Only the Holy Spirit has the power to save people on that scale. Peter and the others spoke, but God’s Spirit opened the minds of the humble and gave them the confidence to believe what they had heard. In fact, they were so convinced that they were eager to do whatever Peter and the other disciples told them to do.

If we are humble and honest with God… if we are fed up with our lives the way they are and want a change… there is no way that God will ignore our request.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23: A different mindset

“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.)   (John 12:31-33  NET)

When we live by faith we don’t think or reason like other people. We see things from a spiritual standpoint, and so what could make other people sad and depressed, could be a positive sign, or an indication of good things to come for us. One thing that we cannot accept is to have the mind of the world, to agree with what everyone else is saying. The world should appear shallow, shortsighted, and materialistic to us—what they value and strive for cannot be what we live for.

Here we see Jesus speaking about His death a short time before it was to happen, and instead of dreading it and speaking about the horrible pain and suffering He would endure—which the average person would do—He speaks about how Satan will be driven out and that He will draw all people to Himself. Instead of sadness and depression… instead of a superficial, worldly outlook, He sees the coming events for what they really are in the spiritual world. He sees the good that will come about through His death and sacrifice.

Right now, each one of us is facing one or more situations that could be interpreted the wrong way if we are not careful. Though Jesus’ death was the worst thing He endured in His lifetime, it was also the most powerful by far, and the most life changing. And with us it is the same, the greater the victory and blessing, the greater the sacrifice and effort required to make it a reality. If we look on the negative side—the pain of the sacrifice we’re going to have to make, the difficulties we have to overcome—we will kill our faith and lose out on the blessings that God has set aside for us. We have to see beyond the difficulties, and know that our God is no fool. He has a plan, and as long as we react by faith, it will become a reality.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

February 22: The Spirit + His fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:22-25  NET)

When Jesus Christ was baptized in water, the Holy Spirit came upon Him and the voice of the Father spoke from heaven expressing His approval of what His Son was doing. At that moment Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered for His ministry. Just like Jesus needed the Holy Spirit to do His work on earth, we also need Him in order to truly live by faith and to remain faithful to the very end. God’s Spirit gives us the strength to overcome hardship, turns us into powerful witnesses for Him, and transforms our character. 

It is no coincidence that immediately after His baptism the Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted for 40 days and 40 nights. My opinion is that without the Spirit He would not have been able to endure that desert—though He was God, He was also a man. Why else would the baptism in the Spirit immediately precede the desert? Not only that, the Bible tells us that the Spirit led Him into the desert. A desert is a time of testing, of stretching our faith, learning about ourselves and about God, and learning to trust in the Almighty and His faithfulness to His word. The deserts was necessary for Jesus, and it is necessary for us. If we are baptized in the Spirit, just like He led Jesus into the Judean wilderness, He will lead us into our own deserts, and if we are smart, we will trust in Him and learn from those times.

Deserts help us to develop all 9 qualities of the Spirit’s fruit. He comes with all 9 qualities, but throughout our lives we have to continue to crucify the flesh and its desires and walk by the Spirit. He is not like the devil; He will not force us into doing what He wants. The Holy Spirit values our own free will and expects us to fight to experience more of Him in our lives. That’s why the last phrase of this passage encourages: if we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit.

Friday, February 21, 2014

February 21: Freeing the demon-possessed

Then they brought to him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus healed him so that he could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Could this one be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this they said, “He does not cast out demons except by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons.”  (Matthew 12:22-24  NET)

Amazing! A man that had been tormented by an evil spirit for many years, and who had practically zero communication with the outside world was freed by the Lord Jesus in a matter of minutes. This should remind us of 1 John 3:8 that explains that Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. Immediately after the demon was cast out the man was able see and talk. But the reaction to this amazing scene was not what it should have been… some people were happy and amazed, while others accused Jesus of being a Satanist—using Satan’s power to perform this feat.

Be careful with religion, and with religious leaders. In the past, in the present, and in the future, one of our worst enemies was and is religion. Isn’t it ironic that the Pharisees made this accusation right after demons had been cast out? They should have been happy. In fact, isn’t their reaction proof that they were possessed? Only a possessed person cannot be happy at another person being freed from demons. Only a possessed believer would accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. A person would have to be very blind and deceived not to see the good in what Jesus did.

I don’t know if you already know this, but we are continually accused of having the spirit of Beelzebul because we believe in casting out demons, healing the sick, and seeing amazing transformations in people’s lives through the power of the Lord Jesus. The same spirit that accused Jesus 2000 years ago is very much alive today, working among unbelievers, believers, and pastors. But we can’t be sad about this… in fact these criticisms should drive us to do even more because they are proof that we’re making Satan and his demons uncomfortable.

In the case above, demons made a man blind and mute. Other passages of the Bible reveal that demons can also cause sickness, pain, insanity, uncontrollable rage, epilepsy, fortune-telling, suicidal thoughts, aggression, self harm, drunkenness, sexual immorality, insomnia, poverty, constant failure, and many other issues. Because evil spirits are the root of these problems, doctors are unable to properly treat or even diagnose them, and unless people find a Church and pastor that does the real work of the Lord Jesus Christ by casting out demons, their suffering and misery will continue, even though they go to Church and read the Bible. 

If the Lord Jesus felt the need to cast out demons, shouldn’t we?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20: Miracles in Jerusalem, and in ……

Now many miraculous signs and wonders came about among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high honor. More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets, and put them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow would fall on some of them. A crowd of people from the towns around Jerusalem also came together, bringing the sick and those troubled by unclean spirits. They were all being healed.  (Acts 5:12-16  NET)

The other day I prayed for a man with cancer and then told him that he was healed and that he would give his testimony very soon. He answered, “If it’s God’s will.” That immediately rubbed me the wrong way, and I replied, “It is! Grab a hold of what I’m telling you and run with it. Your healing is clearly God’s will!”

At this point in the book of Acts, Jesus had already been taken back into heaven, and the church had existed for less than a year, and as you can see, the new group of Christians (though they were not yet called Christians) were meeting in a part of the temple complex called Solomon’s Portico. At that time many signs and wonders were happening through the faith and prayers of the apostles. A sign is a warning, or points to something, and a wonder causes people to be amazed. Both signs and wonders gave credibility to the new Church, proving that the apostles’ words were not from themselves, but from the mouth of God. Amazingly, one of the signs and wonders was that Peter’s shadow healed people as he walked by! …both the sick and the demon possessed.

We should never question whether or not God still does miracles today. We believe in the same God as the One that worked in the book of Acts, and because He is God, He doesn’t change. If we are not seeing great things today, we need to decide that we will from now on, and insist on God’s power working through us. Signs and wonders cannot be separated from our faith—when a sick person is healed, he is healed because of his own faith, not the faith of the pastor that prayed for him. The pastor needs to pray, and speak the truth, and have the boldness to declare the miracle a reality, but as Jesus said many times, “Your faith has healed you.” 

Reread today’s passage. In fact, why don’t you print it out and put it on your mirror, fridge, desk, etc. …and read it at least once every day for the next month. Start to change your mindset and expectations about signs and wonders, because we can never see something until we have first conceived of it in our minds. Decide that you are going to start experiencing the signs and wonders of the first century church.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 19: God will keep me safe

He will surely give me shelter in the day of danger; he will hide me in his home; he will place me on an inaccessible rocky summit. Now I will triumph over my enemies who surround me! I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place and shout for joy! I will sing praises to the Lord.  (Psalm 27:5,6  NET)

God does not promise to eliminate danger from our lives, but He does promise to shelter us from its effects, and make it so that our enemies cannot permanently hurt or destroy us. He doesn’t promise to eliminate our enemies so that we will never be surrounded by them, but He does promise to give us triumph over them, and promises that we will be able to shout and sing for joy at God’s deliverance and protection.

Enemies shape us into the people that God wants us to be. Who would David have been without Goliath? Who would Ester and Mordechai be without Haman… Moses without Pharaoh, Elijah without Jezebel, or Gideon without the Midianites? Our enemies drive us to revolt, to test our faith, and force us to deepen our dependence on God. Problems make us pray, fast, and read the Bible. Dangerous situations cause us to go to Church more frequently, and to ensure that we are saved. Jesus even said that the Father’s discipline is a sign that we are a real sons/daughters.

I want to challenge you right now to determine that you are going to triumph in a big way over the current danger or problem that you are facing. No matter how big or small it is, God is with you if you believe in Him, and that there is nothing that the devil and his demons can do to you as long as you live out your faith in Him.

Let the confidence expressed so completely in this Psalm fill your mind and soul.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18: Jesus is alive!

While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in front of them.  (Luke 24:36-43 NET)

Though Jesus had often told His disciples about His coming death and resurrection, they did not understand. In fact, they were not expecting the resurrection at all. When Jesus appeared to them, they were afraid and amazed. They thought what they saw was Jesus’ ghost. And so He invited them to touch His scars, and ate some food in front of them. In other words He was saying, “This is really Me—I am alive, now and  forever. I have conquered death."

The Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the foundation of Christianity. It proves that Jesus really is God, that Jesus has triumphed over death and Satan. It proves that His death on the cross for humankind was accepted by God the Father, and that He has the power to give life to us all. It proves that all His promises are true. 

Jesus is alive today, and is seated on a throne of power at the Father's right hand. He is ready to help us in whatever way we need. He is not on the cross anymore, nor is He in the tomb. He has all power in heaven and on earth, and is ready to share that power with you and me when we rise up with courage and faith. His death has the power to save you and transform your life, but only when you also die to yourself and are raised up to live for Him. You can cancel out the work of the devil in your life when you grab a hold of the authority He offers you, because His resurrection is proof that He overcame the devil, and if we are His children, then we have also overcome him. When we come to the living Jesus in boldness and faith we will receive all that we need in life.

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17: Christ, son of the living God

When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (Matthew 16:13-16 — NET)

No word or detail in the Bible is useless or accidental—there is a purpose for everything. Whenever you read the Bible, keep this in mind; every word, every idea is intentional and meant to teach us something. When this passage mentions where Jesus was (Caesarea Philippi) we might be tempted to see this as an unnecessary detail, but we would be wrong.

Caesarea Philippi was an area towards the north of the Sea of Galilee at the base of Mount Hermon. Later in His ministry Jesus would be transfigured on this mountain, the highest in all of Israel. But another interesting fact is that this mountain had long been a place of idol worship whenever the Jews drifted away from God, so when Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was, and who they thought He was, He was contrasting false idol worship and worship of the true God.

People thought that Jesus was a prophet that had been raised from the dead, but Peter’s bold statement took this much further when he called Him “Christ, Son of the living God.” By doing this he declared that He was God, the anointed One that all the Jews were waiting for… the Messiah, which is the Hebrew and Aramaic term for Christ. It is the first time that any of the disciples had gone this far, and maybe Peter did not understand all the implications of what he said, but as a man of faith he took that step.

Jesus identified Peter’s statement as a revelation from God; it was not a conclusion he had come to all by himself. God had opened his eyes to this truth, and the same goes for us today. We will only understand certain things when God reveals them to us, or to our family. We can read the Bible and go to church, but only when we humble ourselves and seek God’s truth will we be able to truly understand Him, open our hearts to be saved, and understand His plan for our lives.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16: Righteousness for you

For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed—namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.  (Romans 3:20-25 NET)

All of these words, righteousness, justified, redemption, law and the prophets – can easily seem confusing.  But this passage is life-giving news.  What Paul says here, is that you never can, nor will be able to work your way into heaven.  There is just no way that we, as sinful imperfect people, can earn salvation.  Because we are too far gone. 

The next thing is that everybody, without exception, is a filthy sinner.  Even the “good” people who have never done anything wrong according to their own estimation, are filthy sinners on par with murderers and criminals.  When God sees the selfishness, not only of our outward actions, but of our inner motives and desires, He sees the presence of evil inside of us, contaminating our souls..  So Paul is saying, “It’s a fact – you’re lost! And on top of that, you’re attempts to earn God’s forgiveness and eternal life are pathetic.”

Not comforting at all if the message ended there.  But the life-giving aspect is that God has made another way – a shortcut - for us to be forgiven and enter into His Kingdom right now and live in His power and healing.  Jesus’ death took our place of punishment and exchanged our hopelessly lost sinful life, to adopt us as children of God.  We throw off the filth of our past and become a part of His family, shining and powerful and equipped to fight all evil!

Anyone who would refuse this exchange of rags for riches would be either blind or a fool.  But strangely there are too many who call themselves Christian who would rather hold onto those rags, and insist that they’re just fine as they are.  There is no salvation for those who don’t believe they are lost.  If you think your goodness is enough, think again.  God can only “pass over” your sins if you die to your old life and live a sacrificial life for the One who died for you.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 15: The truth will set you free

Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “We are descendants of Abraham,” they replied, “and have never been anyone’s slaves! How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the family forever, but the son remains forever. So if the son sets you free, you will be really free. (John 8:31-36, NET)

Jesus says we can be set free if we know the truth. But He also says that knowing the truth means to believe in Him and to hold to His teaching. There is no other way to be really free. This is because there are only two kingdoms in the world—Christ's Kingdom and Satan's. If we are not in Christ's Kingdom and under His care and protection, then we are under Satan's dominion, whether we know it or not. Most people, like the Jews in these verses, don't want to admit that they are not free. But Jesus said that the one who lives in sin—the one who lives apart from God and His Son—is a slave to sin and the devil.

The problem with the religious people in Jesus’ day is no different from now.  People become defensive when it is suggested that they are not yet free.  They may attend every church event, listen to Christian radio and read all the latest inspirational books, but foolishly excuse away their grudges, addictions, penchant for gossip, and uncontrolled emotions as “just being human.” But Jesus says that those who practice sin are slaves to it. Jesus freedom goes deeper than changing our Sunday morning habits and radio station preferences.  Freedom requires deep and humbling deliverance, and a tearing down of old mindsets.  

When people admit their need, Jesus begins to work quickly. But when they pretend they have no needs, God can’t respond. Some people come to our churches and get immediate and permanent help. They humble themselves and admit their need, are willing to fight and sacrifice their old lives and God responds by blessing them. Then they decide to remain on that path no matter what comes against them.  They are the ones who are set free indeed, and they are the only ones who can truly know the truth.

Friday, February 14, 2014

February 14: He will be with your forever

If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. In a little while the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too. You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him. (John 14:15-21, NET)

It’s so amazing that Jesus’ departure from the world would usher in an age of even greater closeness and intimacy with God.  Because He rose again and defeated evil and sin, we can now have the Spirit of God that created the foundations of the earth, live inside of us if we make Him our Lord.  This is beyond the grasp of our puny human minds. Jesus breaks it down for His disciples, and for all of us to try and understand.  When we receive this Holy Spirit to fill us to overflowing, it’ll be clear that He is in the Father, and we are in Him, and He is in us. Though we’re not in heaven yet, we’ll be joined with Him.  We don’t just have the privilege of Jesus walking the earth by our side, His Spirit will permanently live inside us!

But there is a price to pay for that amazing baptism of God’s presence.  It’s our life in exchange for His.  It’s death to our selves, the painful breaking of our pride, the ripping off of our old idols and loves, and the submission to serve as His property for eternity so that His life can dwell in us.  Satan does all he can to convince us that such self-sacrifice is cruel and will destroy us.  Of course he says that because our surrender to God spells the destruction of Satan’s power over us.  

These verses are a part of Christ's instructions to the eleven disciples on the night before His death. Jesus says the great test of our love for Him is whether or not we obey His commandments. It is easy to say we have faith; it is easy to say we love God and Jesus His Son; but real faith and genuine love are shown in our actions and deeds. If you are daily obeying Jesus, that shows that He is your real Lord—your obedience proves you love Him. If you are still doing as you please, then you do not love Him.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February 13: Two types of belief

Now he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had made the water wine. In Capernaum there was a certain royal official whose son was sick. When he heard that Jesus had come back from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and begged him to come down and heal his son, who was about to die. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe!” “Sir,” the official said to him, “come down before my child dies.” Jesus told him, “Go home; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and set off for home. While he was on his way down, his slaves met him and told him that his son was going to live. So he asked them the time when his condition began to improve, and they told him, “Yesterday at one o’clock in the afternoon the fever left him.” Then the father realized that it was the very time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he himself believed along with his entire household.  (John 4:46-53 — NET)

Capernaum is on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and over 600 feet below sea level. It is 20 miles away from Cana, the road is an uphill trip from Capernaum, and in those times it would have taken more than a day to travel. The royal official must have worked for King Herod, the ruler of Galilee, and would have been an important, rich, and powerful man; he must also have been weak in his faith before this day because he worked for an enemy of God and His people… choosing money over God. But in spite of all these strikes against him, the desperation he felt at the very real possibility of his son dying made him humble himself and ask for Jesus’ help, and walk, or ride a donkey, for over a day to get that help. It is very clear that he had faith at this point because he was ready to give, and to give what was hard for him. Faith that is not ready to give is not faith at all.

We notice that Jesus was disappointed with people’s faith when he said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe!” Even with the royal official, we notice that there were two separate times that he believed, for two different things. First the man believed when Jesus told him to turn around and make the day-long journey home because his son would live. He had no guarantee that his son would be okay, but decided to believe in his son’s healing, set off for home, and before he had walked the 20 miles to Capernaum his slaves (or more specifically, bond-servants: people that would sell themselves into slavery) met him on the road and told him that his son had been healed at one o’clock in the afternoon on the previous day.

This first kind of belief is belief for a miracle, for a blessing. It is good, but it is limited. We need this belief, but it is not the most important type of belief. The second type is more important, and is what Jesus was looking for, because that belief transforms a person’s life.

The second time the official believed was when he realized that his son had been healed at the precise moment that Jesus said that he would live. This second belief refers to saving faith. At that moment he decided to give his life to Jesus and follow him, along with the rest of his family. This is the belief that surrenders to God, sets aside our own will, and gives in to His. This type of faith saves our souls and makes heaven a reality, opens the way for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and even makes every other blessing possible.

Don’t come to Jesus only for what He can give you; come to Him because He is Almighty God and deserves your worship… because only He offers eternal salvation… because belief in Him as the Lord of your life is the only way for your life to be totally transformed. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 12: Never let me be humiliated

In you, O Lord, I have taken shelter! Never let me be humiliated! Vindicate me by rescuing me! Listen to me! Deliver me! Be my protector and refuge, a stronghold where I can be safe! For you are my high ridge and my stronghold. My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the hand of the cruel oppressor! For you give me confidence, O Lord; O Lord, I have trusted in you since I was young.  (Psalm 71:1-5 — NET)

This is a piece of one of King David’s prayers, and every idea is based on the word of God. Everything he asks for in this prayer is plainly promised in the Bible. Can you pray like this? Have you ever prayed like this in a time of trouble and danger? If not, you need to pray this prayer, or one very much like it. We are surrounded by enemies, by people and spirits that hate us, but the Lord is our refuge and He has promised that no one who trusts in Him will ever be put to shame. He is a “high ridge” and a “stronghold” where we can find safety. He will deliver us from wicked people and keep us safe.

When we’re in trouble, a common reaction is to beg for God to help us, or to pray with the “lotto” attitude of “I hope I’m the lucky one today.” But this type of prayer is unbiblical and demonic, besides being totally ineffective. When we’re in trouble we need to cry out to God with all our hearts, reminding Him of His promises, and applying them to our situations. Verses like today’s passage should be used in our prayers, either word-for-word or as a guideline, and most of all, we can’t stop praying for what we want until He answers us. God has an obligation to help us when we belong to Him. His word promises help and deliverance to His children, and neither God nor His Word can ever fail. God cannot lie and His promises cannot fail to be fulfilled. So we should pray with determination, faith, and boldness. If we want to take our prayers to the next level we can combine them with fasting.

If you read other psalms that King David wrote and if you read the story of his life, you will see that God did deliver and rescue him—not once, but every time he was in trouble. This is a characteristic of God's people throughout the ages—what He has always done for those who love Him. May this be your experience too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 11: True food + drink

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty… Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. Now this is the will of the one who sent me—that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father—for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:35-40 — NET)

Jesus is talking to the people He had fed the day before with the miraculous multiplication of a few loaves of bread and some fish. They were so excited about receiving this physical food that they were thinking of making Jesus their king. But Jesus wanted them to look beyond the physical food and drink. He wanted them to see what the miracle really meant—what God was trying to reveal to them.

In those days the main food was bread. If there was bread to eat, the people lived; when there was no bread, the people died. So when Jesus said that He was the bread of life, it was a powerful and amazing statement. It communicated that He was the One that enabled people to achieve real life. All physical and spiritual life comes from the Lord Jesus. When we really have Him, we have the Source of absolutely everything we need. This is why He said that those who believed in Him would never be hungry or thirsty again.

He must be the main thing we seek in life. Without Jesus our lives are a waste and will end in disaster. With Jesus we have everything anyone could need. He is the One and Only Savior, sent by the Father in heaven into this world.

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10: Nothing on our own initiative

So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. Furthermore, the Father does not judge anyone, but has assigned all judgment to the Son, so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  (John 5:19-23 — NET)

Jesus had just got through healing a man that had been disabled and unable to walk for 38 years, but the Jews were unhappy because this miracle had been done on the Sabbath—a day of rest for the Jews. Their religious blindness made them condemn Jesus for “working” on the Sabbath, when Jesus knew that this was not breaking the Sabbath—if anything, more healings should have been performed on that day, it was a day for worshipping God.

When Jesus says that the Son can do nothing on His own initiative… the point He is making is that the Father and Son are so close that one would not do something that the other would not approve of. In other words, the Father agreed with His healing on the Sabbath. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one; there is perfect union between the three. But, if we are truly God’s children, shouldn’t we be able to say the same about our lives? When we belong to God we no longer have desires that are exclusively our own… any desire we have will include God and His plans in some way or another. When we belong to Him there is unity between us and God. On the other hand, when our plans and desires are in conflict with God’s, or when we don’t take His plans seriously, we can be sure that we do not belong to Him.

Father, Son, and Spirit cannot be separated. We cannot believe in one and not in the other two. God is a package, and we have to obey and love all three persons. Any person or church that tells you anything different is dangerous and unbalanced. They are basing their faith on sand, not on the rock.

Though this passage applies to us, it does not mean that we should relax and let God do everything for us. We need to have initiative—that is what faith is about—but our initiative will not conflict with God’s. Since we are His, what we fight for and believe in, what is most precious to us, will also be what God fights for, believes in, and what He considers precious.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February 9: People healed on Malta

After we had safely reached shore, we learned that the island was called Malta. The local inhabitants showed us extraordinary kindness, for they built a fire and welcomed us all because it had started to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the local people saw the creature hanging from Paul’s hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer! Although he has escaped from the sea, Justice herself has not allowed him to live!” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly drop dead. So after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. Now in the region around that place were fields belonging to the chief official of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably as guests for three days. The father of Publius lay sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and after praying, placed his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, many of the people on the island who were sick also came and were healed. They also bestowed many honors, and when we were preparing to sail, they gave us all the supplies we needed. (Acts 28:1-10 — NET)

Notice that this event is at the end of the book of Acts. The church had been established for thirty years or more, but still it is God's will to heal all the sick. What Paul did here in Malta is just like what Jesus did when He was upon earth. All the sick and demon-possessed were freed from their oppression. The Lord Jesus’ instructions to His church have never changed—He commands us to preach the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sins, to heal the sick, and to drive out demons.

Pay no attention to the people who say the days of miracles are past! If you need a miracle in your life, ask for it. It is Jesus’ will for His people to receive the help they need, and the Kingdom of God is where men and women come to find life and hope, and where the supernatural is experienced. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8: Power over death

Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.) Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”  (John 11:38-44 — NET)

This is perhaps the greatest miracle Jesus performed other than His own resurrection. Lazarus had been buried four days and his body had begun to decompose. But that didn't matter to Jesus. When He cried out, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came back to life. After all, Jesus' voice is the voice of the Creator—the voice that will someday call all the dead from their graves. Raising the physically dead was a miracle performed in the early church—and it should be a miracle performed today by His followers.

But even more important is the miracle that should be happening every day through whenever the Good News about Jesus is preached. People with no hope of a future are finding acceptance and help in God and His church. Those who are dead in sin, slaves to demons and Satan, and on the highway to hell, are being delivered, forgiven, and saved. People who have been considered "the scum of the earth," are becoming sons and daughters of God—citizens in His Kingdom. Jesus is the Life-Giver. He has conquered death and wants you to share in His victory with Him. He wants to speak the same words to each of us: "Take off the grave clothes and let them go!"

Friday, February 7, 2014

February 7: You will receive power

To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:3-8  NET)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an automatic blessing that happens when a person is baptized in water. Deliverance, baptism in water, conversion, the new birth, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit are separate experiences that could happen in a fairly short period of time, but which in our experience take close to a year for most people. Obviously we cannot make rules where the Bible makes no rules—everyone is different—but these changes are so radical, and transform us to such a high degree on the inside, that it is impossible for them to happen overnight. For some it takes a year, for others it may take several months. These are certainly not magical changes that God performs all by Himself—they require effort, humility, honestly, sacrifice, and persistence on our part, all in large doses.

Today’s passage makes it clear that Jesus wanted His disciples to concentrate on receiving His Spirit. He didn’t want them to be busy traveling all over the world healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching the Good News; He limited them to Jerusalem—something that not even Jesus did during His ministry. He did this because whenever we want more of God, whenever we want His Spirit, we have to focus on Him to the exclusion of everything else in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we have to stop cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, or going to work—of course not. But it does mean that we will do everything with Him in mind, will be in a spirit of prayer throughout the day, and that we will cut certain things out of our lives in order to attend church, read the Bible, and seek His presence. Another way to seek God’s Spirit, that many people forget, is to live out our faith. It’s no good to read the Bible and seek God on Sunday and Wednesday, and then resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings throughout the week. Living out our faith in obedience is even more important than worship and seeking God’s presence in prayer.

We were made to be filled with the Holy Spirit; only when we are will we be truly happy and strong. If we do not allow Him to fill us and take the lead, our life will have been a waste. Finding Him and holding on to Him needs to be our main goal in life.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 6: Jesus’ healing power

When he left there, Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up a mountain, where he sat down. Then large crowds came to him bringing with them the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them. As a result, the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they praised the God of Israel.  (Matthew 15:29-31 NET)

Mark, in his gospel, identifies this region along the Sea of Galilee as the Decapolis, a place that was in Gentile territory, as was the previous story in Matthew about the Canaanite woman. Various times throughout the four gospels Gentiles (unbelievers) responded to Jesus with more faith than Jews (believers), just like the large crowds in this passage that brought all sorts of sick people to Jesus. The sick were healed, the people were amazed, and praised God.

This is such an important message for us today. No matter who we are, how long we’ve been Christians, how much we know, or how spiritual we think we are, we need to watch out for pride and complacency. At any time we can lose our close connection with God if we are not careful. What matters is how healthy our faith is today; the condition of our faith yesterday, last week, or ten years ago no longer matters. If we are not hungry for God’s presence and power, others who know much less than we do, and who are only beginning in their faith, will overtake us and experience God and His power while we are left dry and empty—“satisfied” with tired, old lives, or content with religion.

God’s power to heal and transform is greater than any of us can imagine. But that great tidal wave of power can be neutralized by our doubts and unbelief. If those people along the Sea of Galilee experienced such amazing power, why aren’t we? We have the same God, the same faith, the same promises. Let’s not make excuses. Let’s fight to see the same amazing power today.

February 5: God’s abundance

My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. Just as it is written, “He has scattered widely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-9, 11 HCSV)

There’s an abundance of promises clustered together in these few verses. The subject of course is giving to God. If we give little, we will receive little in return, but if we give generously, we will receive generously from Him. Giving is less about the physical act than it is about the state of our heart—our mindset, who we worship. 

Monetary value does not concern God as much as the sincere desire of every giver to be: 1. Generous, 2. Trusting, and 3. Cheerful. 

In return He promises to: 1. Make all grace overflow to us, 2. See that we have enough of everything in every way at all times, and 3. Overflow in every good work.  

God wants us to give the best we can with faith and a happy heart, and then He promises to provide for us in every way. Doesn’t it sound like we get the better end of the deal?  

There are, and will always be complainers in and out of church, when it comes to giving to God. They may pretend to be knowledgeable about God, but in fact they know very little of God’s character and their complaints prove that they don’t believe in God’s love.  They choose to see offerings, tithes and sacrifices, as a selfish scheme to extort people’s hard earned salaries, and totally dismiss the promises of blessings that come to those who give generously and cheerfully. Though they may give out a sense of obligation, their hearts are darkened with greed, and so what they give has lost it’s power to bless them back.

God doesn’t proclaim His blessings lightly.  What He says He fulfills, but we always have our part in the process.  If we say we surrender our lives to God but then begrudge Him a few offerings, we have to ask if we ever gave our lives to Him in the first place.  Giving is about trust, about taking a risk to believe that His promises are true.  For God, our trust in Him is worth more than all the wealth in the world.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February 4: God arms me with strength

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights. He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand upholds me,
and Your humility exalts me. (Psalm 18:32-35 HCSB)

It’s interesting that God does not promise to eradicate all threats or enemies from our lives, but promises to make us strong for war.  War, conflict, enemies and weapons seem to be the stuff of heroes, of men who enjoy aggression.  But these aspects of a life of faith are meant for everyone—from grandmothers to businessmen to school kids to anyone who chooses to surrender their lives to God.  We are all called to a life of courage, battle, and audacious faith that wins every time.

God’s call to courage is actually a call to obey. To trust that He’ll strengthen us at the moment that we need Him.  There are times when God requires a huge act of faith that no one recognizes but ourselves—the act of remaining steady in a fearful situation, or the act of loving an unlovable person.  The act of walking away from an unhealthy relationship, or the act of standing up for what you know is the truth. 

Depending on what your struggles are, this type of courage can be just as intense as a soldier in the middle of enemy crossfire.  That level of obedience is ignited into an unquenchable fire.  Faith joined with courage puts you in the elite position of being exalted by God.  You are lifted high and made great by the only one who can truly do so. No force can knock you from that position. 

This is God’s promise to those who go all the way with Him, not to the timid, selfish, or half-hearted who shrink back.  What is God requiring of you in the situation you’re in right now?  Are you willing to do that no matter how long it takes?  Or will you give up when the devil’s resistance becomes too unpleasant? Don’t despair if the fight seems to take too long—God has already made you strong enough to bend a bow of bronze, you’re stronger than you think!  Believe that and before you realize it, He will exalt you before your enemies.  For His honor and glory, He will make you great.     

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3: Who is your father?

Jesus replied, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come from God and am now here. I have not come on my own initiative, but he sent me. Why don’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot accept my teaching. You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies… The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God.”  (John 8:42-47 — NET)

This is Jesus’ message for possessed believers. A group of people wanted to kill Him, and yet insisted that they were children of Abraham. When Jesus explained that if they believed in Him they would be free, they angrily replied that they were already free and had never been anybody’s slaves. Then Jesus launched into this passage where He explained that their father was the devil and that they could not say that God was their Father when they hated Him and His teachings.

Please don’t pass today’s devotional off as something that only applies to other people. Very few people in this world are saved and truly know God… very, very few. Most people who go to church want to hear what makes them feel good; they don’t want to hear a rebuke; they want to hear that they are saved and going to heaven even when they are lazy about their relationship with God, and refuse to accept Jesus’ teachings at face value. Most people don’t want to change their lives and do God’s will… they want an hour in church on Sunday morning to soothe their consciences, so they can go back to what they consider reality, and live their lives the way they want all the while believing the lie that they are saved.

Ask yourself if you belong to God. Jesus accused people who did not listen and respond to His teachings of not belonging to Him—these are His words not mine—and remember, when He said this He was speaking to people who considered themselves believers… children of Abraham. We are not saved because we go to church (though this is necessary) or because we call ourselves Christians, or because we are “good” people; we are saved only when we humble ourselves to God’s words and practice them, especially when they are difficult to accept.

Make sure you are saved. It’s your most valuable possession.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2: The weapons of our warfare

For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 — NET)

There was a hill close to ancient Corinth that rose to a height of approximately 2000 feet—with a fortress and a temple on top. Because this was something the Corinthians saw every day, Paul probably had this in mind when he spoke about tearing down strongholds, and every arrogant obstacle. 

As the Lord Jesus’ disciples we are in the middle of a huge, life-and-death battle—a war between God and Satan—God’s angels and the devil's demons—the people of God and the people of Satan. The problem is that this war is not a physical war that can be won with physical strength or weapons—it has to be fought with the spiritual weapons of faith and the word of God. If we react to this war in a human way, we’ll be ineffective at best, and beaten down and destroyed at worst. 

The last sentence of this passage is an important one, because it speaks about the fight being one of arguments, knowledge, and thoughts. If this war were only physical we’d be able to handle it better and not get side tracked. But it’s not, and that’s why we have to be plugged into God’s word and presence. Only when we are close to Him and living constantly in His presence (at home, on the job, on the street, at school) will we have the wisdom to tear down arguments and arrogant obstacles in our way, and take EVERY thought captive.

I heard a story today about one of our members in Brazil who was going home from a late night service at one of our churches where they had been seeking the Holy Spirit. She left feeling so good and close to God that she didn’t realize that she had turned onto an extremely dangerous street that she normally avoided. A young man came up to her with a knife and ordered her to give him all her money, and before she could think about what to say she responded with, “Son… why’re you doing this. All I have is bus fare.” Immediately his face changed, he fell to his knees, and apologized. Why? It had been a long time since anyone had called him “son” and simply hearing a soft, concerned mother call him “son” jolted him back to reality.

If this woman had not been full of faith, if she had gotten scared instead of responding with compassion, she would have been robbed and possibly stabbed. When we take thoughts captive in small situations like this every day, we are worshiping God and freeing Him to be the powerful God He wants to be in our lives, and we end up changing the people around us.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 1: Tearing a hole in the roof!

Some people came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Jesus. Then, after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the experts in the law were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds: “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Now immediately, when Jesus realized in his spirit that they were contemplating such thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—he said to the paralytic—“I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”  (Mark 2:3-12 — NET)

These four men were determined to get help for their friend. They knew Jesus could help him if they could only get near Him. Since they couldn't get in through the door of the house He was in, they tore a hole in the roof! …and lowered down their friend right in front of Him. What rude people they were, damaging a stranger’s house and cutting in line ahead of people who had been there before them. If that happened today a lot of people would jump on their cases and accuse them of being bad Christians. But Jesus saw faith in their actions and quickly healed and forgave their friend. Clearly He was pleased with their bold, “rude” attitude. 

I wonder… are you too nice and proper? Have you ever torn a hole in a roof and insisted on God changing your life? Being a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ is not always synonymous with patience, love, and kindness. Genuine faith is rough and determined—even stubbornly insistent on what it wants. Real faith that is sure of what God has promised, places its hands over its ears and ignores people saying the opposite. When David decided to kill Goliath, his brothers called him arrogant, and when we are operating in true faith, people will accuse us of the same thing—not because we are arrogant, but because they don’t understand the single-mindedness of real, raw, genuine faith.

Jesus did not rebuke these men for doing what they did most likely because their attitude was like a breath of fresh air to Him. He must have seen Himself in them, and gotten excited. Many Christians are so correct and proper that they are boring. They are too afraid to make a mistake and so they never set their faith lose to create the miracle that they need. Peter, Jesus’ disciple, had more faith than the other disciples, but also made the most mistake, and yet he was one of three that Jesus valued more than the rest.

Another truth we see in this passage is that before healing the paralytic Jesus forgave his sins. This seems to point to the fact that his sickness entered through some type of sin. If He had not forgiven him and healed the man’s heart, the sickness might have come right back. In the same way, lots of people today are sick because of sinful thoughts, habits, and behavior. They can pray until they are blue in the face and never be healed. What they need is to cleanse their hearts, repent, and ask for forgiveness, and then their healing will appear.

When are you finally going to tear a hole in a roof?