Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Plot for Global Domination

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9)

You know the problem with most conspiracy theories?  They assume a level of long-view, patriotic, sacrificial altruism which does not normally exist in humans.  Man is a damselfly upon the earth, here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire.  Men who want power, do not want it someday for their theoretical great, great grandchildren…they want it today!  For themselves.  At most we can read of kings and emperors who, when eventually coming to grips with their own mortality, want to secure kingdoms for their immediate children and talk of eternal legacies though even this is usually a selfish attempt to be remembered and revered.  But shadowy individuals, perfectly content to remain anonymous throughout centuries so they can carefully, painstakingly orchestrate events to bring about an outcome favorable to people who’s ancestors haven’t even been born yet?  It defies not only logic and empirical observation but biology as well.

Only the immortal can hatch eternal plots.  And even they are not looking far into the future because they are outside Time.  It is an immediate plot to them.  We see God choose one man and over five hundred years build his family into a nation.  We see Him take His nation and inject His Holy Law into them and place them in a land.  We see Him wait two thousand years as they rise and fall and rise and fall again and again like toddlers learning to walk.  When the time is right, we see Him send His only beloved Son to them as one of them.  A baby in a backwater town of a backwater country in an armpit of an empire which only represents a third of the world.  We read here in Luke of this Son, lovingly, patiently investing in twelve ordinary men; giving them the keys of the Eternal Kingdom!  The Son then performs the One Act which no one else could do to save us all from sin and death.  And then he jets. Those twelve men spread the good news of the Son to a small segment of the world’s population.  One by one they die.  The news continues to spread through those who believe it.  Like a campfire jumping its ring of rocks, little delicate sparks carried by the wind they know not where to ignite the dry hearts in which they come to rest.  The fire spreads, sometimes dying out in one place and raging in another, always on the move, always spreading.  Until two thousand years later, despite the devil’s hooves frantic stamping, no patch of Earth exists where there cannot be found evidence of its passing. 

It is a plot for global domination which even if man could devise, he would never actually implement for he stood nothing to gain in his own lifetime.  But Jesus is eternal.  The eternal can afford patience.  He can sit in his hard earned throne at the right hand of God and gather his martyred lambs to himself in ones and twos.  He can give his fire time to do its work so all will have the chance to hear and receive the Truth.  He can allow the devil’s own schemes to run in apparent unchecked savagery for a few short millennia for he knows the End is coming soon and what is ten thousand years to an Eternity in Paradise?  He knows he will not lose even one lamb given to Him by the Father, even if they haven’t been born yet. 

So today, we may feel insignificant.  We may feel helpless.  The situation, the world may look hopeless.  It may appear as if God has lost, is sleeping or does not care.  But remember your God!  Remember who He is! 
“Remember this and stand firm,

    recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9      remember the former things of old;

for I am God, and there is no other;

    I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning

    and from ancient times things not yet done,

saying, My counsel shall stand,

    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,

    the man of my counsel from a far country.

I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

    I have purposed, and I will do it.
12 “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,

    you who are far from righteousness:
13 I bring near my righteousness;
it is not far off,

    and my salvation will not delay;

I will put salvation in Zion,

    for Israel my glory.” (Is 46)
You serve this God!  You carry the Fire!  You have the keys to the Kingdom!  You who have heard and believed and love the Good News!  Go, proclaim, spread the fire and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against you!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Where is your Faith?

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.” (Luke 7)

40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” (Luke 8)

Bookends.  Two men.  Two sick children: one foster, one genetic.  Both men place all their hopes, all their chips, all their faith in one vessel, one man.  One has great faith, the other but a little.  Jesus meets them both, right where they are.  Sages say, having faith isn’t the issue, everyone does.  It is in what..or whom.. you place your faith which makes all the difference.  In the desert of life, better a quart in a canteen than a sea in a sieve.  Luke ends chapter six with a whelming flood proving and testing foundations and finding either a rock of truth or shifting sand castles of delusion.  Chapters seven and eight are about the difference.

The segment however begins and ends with two men who have chosen Jesus.  Both men are able.  Both men are powerful.  Both men have respect and honor of their own.  Both men have come to the end of their illusions of control.  Both men approach Jesus in humility.  Jairus feels comfortable enough to come himself, though on his knees.  The Centurion, sensing his unworthiness, sends emissaries, Jewish elders to plead on his behalf.  Could Jairus have been among them?  To both, Jesus immediately drops what he is doing and moves toward them.  First lesson, place faith in correct place.  Second, Jesus moves toward faith!

Again, in both events a second wave of messengers come forth to meet Jesus.  The Centurion, upon learning of Jesus’ approach, sends servants to stop him.  Is he afraid to meet Jesus?  Does he just not wish to bother an obviously important man?  Is his sense of guilt too great, he is a soldier of occupation in a bloody age.  To be sure, he has most likely done terrible things, ordered terrible things.  Power he understands…and fears.  Perhaps his obvious good deeds, building the synagogue and loving his servants, are attempts at amends?  Has he come to the point in his life and realized his great need for a savior?  All we know is his faith recognizes Jesus’ power and respects it, his faith recognizes Jesus’ goodness and mercy and earnestly desires it.  Jesus respects the man’s faith, marvels at it even and fulfills his prayer from a distance.  The servant-son is healed.  This personal God does not meet him personally.  He rewards this man’s deep faith by allowing it to continue…in its current state!  No greater knowledge of Jesus is required than confirmation his faith was justly placed.  A priceless picture of faith in our own age!

Jairus’ people meet them on the road to his home as well.  They ask Jesus to stop too but not out of unworthiness but from a lack of necessity.  The girl is dead, they say, why bother the Teacher (…Teacher?) anymore?  They do not understand Jesus’ power.  Therefore, they cannot know who he is.  Their faith was only large enough for a healing.  It didn’t allow for raising of the dead.  Elijah could do it.  Elisha could too but this carpenter from Nazareth?  Doubtful.  He’s no Elijah.

Darn tootin’ he ain’t.  The amazing thing is, Jesus takes that weak seed and cracks it wide open.  He doesn’t shake his head at the missed opportunity and walk away when they bid him cease.  He offers Jairus a chance to go deeper.  To KNOW the man he’s appealed to.  To reward his faith with deeper faith! 

Both men’s faith was tested in the same way.  Having great faith does not save you from trouble.  Nor does God go easier on weak faith.  Both were in danger of losing someone they loved dearly.  The flood will rise.  12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1Pete 4)   Is your faith strong?  Then the trial will only affirm your faith is well placed!  Is your faith weak?  Then the suffering will only reveal more of Christ to you!  Rejoice!  It matters little how much faith you have, only who it is in!  This is the source of Christian lunacy!  Do we want to see Jesus?  Do we want greater faith?  Then we almost need pray for suffering to come!  Storms to arise so beyond our control we cry out!  “My God, my God!  Why have you forsaken me?”  The darker the storm, the more sure we must be of who he is.  And the greatest storm is death!  How great will Jesus’ glory be among the nations when those fools who lived for him and died anyway or even because of him, with nothing in their lives to show for it, are raised up on the Last Day!  We can even succumb to the storm; go down with the ship because our God is GREATER!  Do not fear!  Do not hesitate to fall at his feet!  It is the safest place to be!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two Worlds, One God

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.”

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons.”
(Luke 8)

One of the things I love about the Word is, no matter how many times I read a passage, there’s still more there to see, more to learn, more gold to mine from it.  Luke 8 is turning out to be a rich strike.  Here we have two incidents: the calming of the storm and the healing of the Gerasene or Gadarene demoniac.  Two examples of Christ’s power and authority.  One over the elements, over the world without, over the conditions, circumstances, trials and storms surrounding us.  One over the world within, the devils, temptations, sins and trials and storms that rage across the surface of our souls.

First the world without.  Disease, economy, joblessness, relationships, families, live long enough, pay attention and you will get pummeled in all these areas.  How are we going to pay for this?  Why must I be alone?  Why must they leave?  How are we going to make it through this?  Lord, why cancer?  Why cancer again?  Why hospice?  Lord, we’re drowning in debt?  Lord, we’re losing her!  We’re losing him!  He’s totally turned his back on us and You and we don’t know what to do!  And these are just the fears and worries of a first world nation.  Talk to our Christian brothers and sisters in China, Nigeria, Russia and the middle East and the fear of persecution, prison and death make the cry,“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” a bit more authentic.  It is very easy to believe that Jesus is asleep at the wheel, doesn’t care or worse, is just a good teacher.  A prophet, maybe, but the all-powerful Son of God?  C’mon.   

Then there’s the world within.  We are born depraved.  We are raised up by people who at best, war with their own selfish, ingrown, depraved natures to provide for us but our best attempts at love are only transactional manipulations to get love.  Which only provides the illusion of love.  Not true love.  Not true communion.  We are driven by our desires.  We are driven by our lusts.  We are driven by our fears.  Driven by our needs to solitary places.  Where eventually we succumb.  Entropy is a spiritual law too.  Disillusionment becomes cynicism, cynicism becomes bitterness, bitterness despair.  Spoiled becomes egocentric, egocentric becomes narcissistic, narcissistic delusional.  Insecure becomes anxious, anxious becomes full of fear, fear is a tyrant.  We are witnessing the effects of this across our culture, across our world.  When we deny God’s authority, we are free to fill the vacuum.  When we elevate ourselves to godhood, nothing we do is wrong.  Our whims, our desires, our lusts, our depravity, our demons rule.

But Jesus.

Jesus can sleep in a storm because he knows who his Father is.  He knows who rules the deep.  Who rules the winds.  He knows his mission, his purpose and whom he serves.  He knows nothing can stand in the way of Him.  He even knows should the waves overcome the boat, should they sink, should they die, His Father is able to overcome death!  Overcome physics!  Who knows?  If the disciples had instead of waking Jesus in a tizzy, had knelt and prayed, the storm would not have ceased?  If the boat though it sunk, they would have rested upon the waves as if they were solid?  If the water would not have parted and they walked to the Gadarenes?  If they would not have been lifted in the Spirit to dry land?  If they would not have died and found themselves alive anyhow on shore?  The question Jesus asks upon rebuking the wind and sea is telling, “Where is your faith?”  Is it in oars and sails, sweat and blood, in flesh?  Is it in the world you can see?  Or is it somewhere the winds and waves cannot touch?

And how often must the naked man have cut himself among the bones of the dead and cried out for deliverance, even death?  How deep was his despair?  How hopeless was his situation?  All internal though it was?  Was he a Jew?  Did he know God?  How often do we who know Christ as Savior wonder when we will be free of our sin?  How many times must we fall prey to the same temptation?  Will God ever give us victory over this?  How can I be a child of God and still struggle with This??  If Jesus came to us in our low moments and asked us our name, asked who we are, would we answer, “unworthy,” “ashamed,” “fallen,” “wretched,” “adulterer, murderer, pervert, child of wrath, drunkard, sluggard, Legion!”? 

But Jesus.

Casually, dismissively, with nary a wave of his hand, heals us, cleanses us, forgives us, restores us!  Look at the cross!  This is our God!  This is what He has done!  The man we worship, this Jesus, is the same today as he was then! 

It is paramount, imperative, absolutely essential then we understand a few things more!  These revelations of who Jesus is come in storms!  They come in despair!  God is not afraid of what horrifies us, nor is He afraid to use it for His purposes.  Storms don’t mean judgment for the believer!  They might mean discipline but the message is always the same, “Where is your faith?”  Do you live for this life or the next?  Do you think you have to be pure to be loved or do you believe you were made pure because you were loved?!

Second, God is not obligated to calm our storms, to drive out every demon from our lives.  He showed His power then so we could have faith in Him now!  Only He knows the end from the beginning.  The thief on the cross wasn’t magically teleported down from it when he believed in Jesus.  He died with his legs splintered from a hammer and his lungs filling with water.  As far as we know, all the disciples were martyred and it’s a pretty safe bet, most of them sinned right up until the axe fell.  God is concerned with our comfort and He understands our fear but He has a far different view of it than we.  And He will gladly sacrifice our temporary, hundred years of earthly happiness and contentment for an eternity of mind-blowingly-boffo-boggling bliss with Him!  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!  And praise Him who alone what Blessing is doth know!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Right Hand Man

It’s funny how a single word or phrase can grab your attention when you’re reading the Word.  The other day it was, “right hand.”  Gen 48 shows us it is the hand the greater blessings come from.  Priests and cleansed lepers were consecrated on the right side: ear, thumb and toe. (Ex 29, Lev 8, 14)  Judges 5 portrays it as the hand of vengeance.  Which makes sense since it was ordinarily, the side of honor, the side in which the weapon is kept.  It is apparently the hand in which a pledge of fellowship (Gal 2) or strong oaths are made. (Rev 10)  More than this though, when I started looking at the verses about the right hand something else jumped out at me… or should I say, someone else.  So without further nonsense from me, in true rabbit trail fashion, I give you the Word:

My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. (Isaiah 48:13
)  In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! (Psalm 45:4
)  As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. (Ps 48:10)
6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,

    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
12 You stretched out your right hand;

    the earth swallowed them. (Ex 15)
 ““The Lord came from Sinai

    and dawned from Seir upon us;

    he shone forth from Mount Paran;

he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,

    with flaming fire at his right hand.
And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won. (Ps 78:54)

14 Turn again, O God of hosts!

    Look down from heaven,
 and see;

have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted,

    and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. (Psalm 80)

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:64)  A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Ps 110:1)   Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you (Ps 21:8) in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. (Ps 26:10)  You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the LORD's right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory! (Hab 2:16)  Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Ps 11:6)  Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. (Jer 25:15)
6 Appoint a wicked man against him;

    let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;

    let his prayer be counted as sin! (Ps 109)
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. (Zech 3:1)

Thus says your Lord, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more; (Is 51:22) For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Is 41:13)  You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (Ps 18:35)
30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;

    I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,

    to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. (Ps 109)  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, (Ps 116:13)  27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26) 

He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matt 20:23)  So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19)  In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, (Rev 1:16,17) As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev 1:20)

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. (Ps 17:7)
3 Yes, he loved his people,

    all his holy ones were in his hand;

so they followed in your steps,

    receiving direction from you,” (Deut 33)
[D]aughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. (Ps 45:9)  His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! (SoS 2:6)  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11)  
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Ps 63:8)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Signs and Wonders

“As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”” (Luke 8)

I’ve visited and attended a lot of churches in my time.  I’ve been on many a prayer list.  Online networks are awash with folk asking for prayer.  By informal survey, I could sum up probably ninety percent of those requests in one word: Healing.

I’ve never met anyone who likes being sick.  Even hypochondriacs only do it for the attention.  Our bodies live in houses and our souls live in bodies.  If we don’t like living in decrepit, broken houses infested with bugs, we don’t like something being wrong or unwelcome invaders in our bodies even more.  It hits a little too close to home, if you take my meaning.  We want health.  We dream of perfect bodies.  We long for immortality.  Disease and Death strike us as wrong as robbers breaking into our homes.

And it was no different in Jesus’ day.  The crowds thronging him were not always there to hear a good if confusing and slightly disturbing sermon.  If they were anything like us, which since they were people, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume they were, they probably preferred their physical needs met before their spiritual ones, hands down.

And Jesus obliged many of them.  My question is this: Why?

No one Jesus healed or raised from the dead is still with us so it stands to reason they all got sick again and died.  So the point was obviously not a permanent fix for our flesh.  Christ didn’t turn us into superhumans.  Likewise we can safely assume it was not a visible sign of one’s admittance into the kingdom.  We who have come later still get sick and die and accounts like the ten lepers in Luke 17 and the parable of the sower show how unbound our hearts are to our benefactor much less simple gratitude. 

Thirdly, this account of the woman with the discharge of blood (what a horrible moniker to go through history with!) completely eliminates the possibility of Jesus healing simply because he wanted to, because of his pity and sympathy.  He didn’t even know whom he had healed here.  The power of the Spirit does this without Jesus’ consent or compliance.  He’s just walkin’ ovah heah, a touch of a hem and Pow!  Power’s a’flowin’ like lightning.  Immediately, it says, immediately she knew she was healed.  Wow!  How cool is that? 

And yet, she’s dead.  Somewhere down the line, she caught something else, her body wore out or she met with an unfortunate accident and she died.  So what was it all for?  A little momentary comfort?  Is that all Jesus offers?  Is that all our salvation is good for?  A little momentary comfort?  Are we, like the atheists say, just clinging to some spiritual sweetener to ease the bitter pill of living?  Especially when all living means eventual death?  Do we come to Jesus just for temporary relief of minor aches and suffering?

Perish the thought.

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit.” (Luke 6)

“48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4)

“It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Heb 2)

God is testifying through the signs and wonders to whom Jesus is so we may see and believe!  What tree he is.  And what tree is he?

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” (Rev 2)

We’ve spoken of this before but it’s worth repeating…Jesus is the Tree of Life, the Bread of Life, the Water of Life!  All who come to him in faith and humility shall have life abundant, life eternal.  He sits enthroned on the right hand of God in the sanctuary of the new Jerusalem and “through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22)  He is not just meant to be taken once, he is our SOURCE!  He is the Vine, we are the branches, we wither and die without a constant replenishing of Him.  Just as we wither and die if we do not eat, do not drink.  We must remain attached to Him! 

So what does this say about healing?  In Genesis 3 God says to God, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”  Is it possible Adam and Eve had been in the garden all this time and never bothered to eat the fruit which would let them live forever?  Just slipped their minds did it?  Was on their “to do” list for tomorrow maybe?  Not likely.  As the Tree of Life in Revelations shows, this is not a once and done thing, this is a constant replenishment.  There is a new fruit every month.  God has never intended us to be independent of Him.  Just as a husband is never meant to be independent of his wife.  Just as a child isn’t meant to be independent of their parents.  Just as God isn’t even independent of Himself.  Jesus and the Father are in constant communion through the Spirit, perfect love, perfect submission.  Adam and Eve were always meant to eat of the Tree of Life.  This is how they lived forever.  This is what healed their bodies.  This is what the Angel with the flaming sword divided them from after the Fall.

Jesus, the Vine, the Bread, the Water of Life, came to earth then and just touching him in faith and humility was enough to taste the fruit of the Tree again!  There is much more to say, just as Jesus had much more to show us but we aren’t ready to receive it yet.  We are so broken, so lost, so wounded, so starving, so dehydrated and we don’t even have the barest clue as to our need.  We’ve barely scratched the surface in the parable in the suffering and death of our bodies.  Everything we need is Him and He is too much to comprehend at a glance, it will take eternity to learn to love Him but for today, it is enough to crawl on the earth and touch the hem of his garment and let the healing start.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Halves by Haves

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,

    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people's heart has grown dull,

    and with their ears they can barely hear,

    and their eyes they have closed,

lest they should see with their eyes

    and hear with their ears

and understand with their heart

    and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matt 13)

Luke 8 ends with three healings.  Three tales of the miraculous power of God displayed through Jesus.  We could look at them and feel good and know we should ask for things we want, no matter how big or how impossible and we should believe God loves us and can do them and we’d be taking away only half the message… possibly not even that much.  We’d be guilty of the same dullness of heart as the three people in our story.  Fortunately, Jesus isn’t satisfied with healthy dullards.

They each get off to a good start.  27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons…28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you…”
41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him…”
43 And there was a woman…44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment…”
Each one comes and willingly falls at Jesus’ feet.  Notice, in no instance does Jesus tell them, “Oh quit groveling and get up!”  Quite the contrary, Monty, this is the only proper approach of sinful creation to Holy God.  Humility is not pretending to be less than you are, it’s knowing exactly who you are and where you stand, whether to your brothers who’s sins are no less nor greater than your own or to your God who created you.  So on the surface, it appears these folk are approaching Jesus correctly.

On the surface ice can appear to be thick enough to hold your weight too.  But scrape a little deeper and we see demons afraid of the abyss.  We see a man who believed Jesus could heal but was amazed when Jesus raised from the dead.  We see a woman with an almost superstitious belief in power.  What we don’t see, is anyone looking for a Savior.

Jesus doesn’t see it either but they each have something: a kernel of faith.  Jesus can work with kernels.  To the ones who have, faith and humility, He gives abundantly more!  He takes their smoldering wicks and gently blows their blinded minds.  He sees the need beneath the need.  He knows the true, glorious destiny beyond the dusty destinations of our rabbit trails.  Jesus is not content to heal bodies, bodies continue to decay and die even after being healed, even after being raised from the dead in this plane.  Jesus reaches in and heals their hearts!

The demon-possessed man begs not to be tormented.  He is instead, released from torment, healed, restored and given back to his home!  He is given back his Life!  The god he feared as an angry avenger becomes the God who Saves!

The woman with the issue of blood just wants her body healed.  The best she can hope for is anonymity.  Jesus not only grants her request, this is the least of his powers, he brings her secret into the light.  Through confession, she is raised up from the ground, from anonymity, from shame to honor!  To forgiveness!  She had sinned greatly according to the Law by making all the people in the crowd who touched her unclean under the law.  Jesus, her great high priest, intercedes, 34 And he said to her, “Daughter[!]””   He declares her not only clean but a child of God!  He restores her to her people, to peace with them and with her Father whom she has not known!

Jairus believed Jesus could heal.  Who knows what kind of man he thought Jesus was.  We get a glimpse however by the people he associates with.  They send messengers to say, it’s too late.  She’s dead.  Don’t bother the teacher anymore.  We see another, uglier glimpse, when they enter the house and Jesus says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” (Matt 13)  They laugh at him.  And we see the final proof when Jesus raises her up with but a gentle word, “and they were immediately overcome with amazement.”  Jesus goes from being a teacher to being something so much more!  He rocks their world and overcomes their cynicism and unbelief!  He softens their hearts!

So much of our prayers are for the surface.  Too often, even in our faith, we display our lack of faith, our unbelief, our immature and dull hearts.  We ask for crumbs while Jesus invites us to the Wedding Supper.  We ask for band-aids when Jesus is prepping for surgery.  We pray for pennies when Jesus has buried a treasure chest beneath the floorboards of our lives.  We limit him to an avenging, angry god or an unfeeling icon or a capricious slot machine.

But keep praying, keep smoldering and sending up that incense, keep watering that kernel… but if you come to Jesus in humility and faith, you better strap in space cadets, cuz you’re going to get a whole lot more than you bargained for!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Boat for You!

38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8)

We’ve been talking a lot about boats as a metaphor for following Jesus.  Getting in them, getting out of them, what keeps us from following Jesus and the like.  How we need to let go of everything in order to truly follow Him.  How nothing is more important.  How this is our true path.

But what if Jesus tells you not to get into the boat?  What then justshane?  Huh?  What?


I’m gonna admit right up front, this would have been really hard for me to accept.  If Jesus had done this kind of wonderful miracle for me, knowing how I am right now, I would want to follow him, be with him.  I would be very envious of the twelve yutzes getting back in the boat to leave.  Why Jesus?  Why can’t I sit at your feet and feed off your every word?

And yet, this is pretty much where every believer is.  Standing on the shore of mortality, looking across the ocean of death, knowing Jesus is on the other side.  Our true home is on the other side.  Our true selves are on the other side.  Perfect peace and prosperity are on the other side.  The lover of our souls is on the other side.  Jesus came, saved us and left us here!  Whut up, Jesus?

As simply as I can put it: because we are different.  13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many….17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1Cor 12) 

In some things we will all share.  We all have the same calling.  We are all to obey and submit.  We all must love God with heart, mind and strength.  We all love each other as Christ loved us.  We all are told to go and make disciples of all men.  These things are universal.  Every new Christian can be told them.  Every new Christian should expect them. 

But there are also specific callings.  God knows us.  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12)  God knows you!  Yes, you!  He knows your struggles, your history, your sins, your potential, which he placed in you.  He knows His design for you!

So to a dutiful fisherman with a family and responsibilities and natural leadership skills, he says, “leave your nets and follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.”  To a tax collector, an outcast of his society, he says, “follow me,” and makes him part of and a leading scribe for the Kingdom of God.  To a rich young ruler, he says, “go and sell all you own, give it to the poor and follow me.”  To a woman caught in adultery he gives forgiveness and tells her, “Go and sin no more.”  To a Pharisee, he explains the mysteries of the kingdom so this man can teach them to the people.  To a widow with a dead son, he restores the young man to her.  And to a demon possessed man, living among the tombs, he restores his mind and says, “Go home.”

From the ones who have, Jesus takes.  To the ones without, Jesus gives.  Those who feel themselves established, built up, on solid footing, secure, Jesus tears down so He may build them up again on the Rock.  So He may make something new and true and eternal.  To those who have lost everything, who have nothing, who are cast out, unclean, unloved, He restores what was lost and more. 

This demon possessed man of the Gerasenes, has suffered greatly.  To him, Jesus restores mind, body and soul.  He does not ask him to follow him onto the boat, to share in the sufferings and depredations he and the disciples will still face.  He sends him HOME.  A place the man hasn’t been welcome in who knows how long.  He gives the man back to the community, back to his family. 

And he gives him this command, “declare how much God has done for you.”  Full circle.  We come back to the universal commandments, Love God, Love neighbor, make disciples.  Obey, submit, love.  Paul sums up his dissertation on spiritual gifts in this way…
“29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way. 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing… 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor 12,13) 

Love is obedience, submission.  Where ever God sends you; whatever field He gives you to tend; whoever He sends you to minister to; whatever mountain He has given you to climb; whatever He has taken from you or given to you; whether He tells you to get into or out of the boat; remember this: He has chosen you, He has trained you through the trials of your life, He has equipped you with His Spirit and His Word and He has prepared the way for you.  He “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” has got this!  Go forth, be fruitful and multiply!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Kinda Deal?

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”  23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves;” (Matt 8)

I don’t know if I’m right in this but after the age of thirteen, I no longer drag my sons to church with me.  They are at the age where they must now choose to follow.  As Peter says to the shepherds, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1Pete 5)  If it’s good for the shepherd, I figure it’s good for the sheep.  God gives us love, love He desires in return.  Compulsory obedience and grudging slavery breed resentment, passive aggressive resistance and eventually a loathing of the holy.  This does not bring glory to God.  No more than a child’s muttered, angry, “sorry,” is true repentance.  God is concerned with the heart, not appearances!  As Paul says, The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Cor 9)  Whether money, time, submission or obedience, if it is not freely given, it is not love.  If done in trade for selfish gain, it is not love. 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phpp 2)  Jesus. Is. God.  He is king!  14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),” (Ex 34)  Though Jesus is willing to humble himself to the lowest kind of servitude.  Though he is willing to give up everything he has, let his own creation strike him, spit on him, insult him, strip him and kill him, he is still I AM!  And all the more so because of his thrice blessed humility and obedient love!  A distant, angry god we might justifiably resent, at least from our perspective.  But this God as a baby?  This God in dirty sandals and sweaty tunic?  This God who touches lepers?  This God who forgives and restores whores?  Who drives out demons?  Who goes to a cross which bears a sign that should have read, “Place Your Name Here ________”???

Anything you put before this God, anyone you honor and obey before this Jesus, any state, nation, entity, company, lust, desire, ideal, principle, person or place, any THING you wish to serve first- is your god.  Jesus knows this, he warns us before we leave him at the seashore with the lame excuse that we have to “go and bury our father”, ““No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9)  It would be better for us to be like Lot’s wife and turned into a pillar of salt than to let us go our own way and forfeit all the blessings and glories and honors He has for us.  At least then a pinch of us would make bland meals better.  Though it’s interesting to note for we who are called to “be fruitful and multiply,” that ground with too high a salinity level, bears no fruit.  As the Dead Sea silently testifies, nothing grows in salt.

But sidetracks in salt flats aside, (say that five times fast!) what if we do embrace Jesus’ homelessness warning?  What if we do leave our hopes of recompense on the shore?  What if we do leave “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for” (Matt 19) Jesus?  What if we do get on the boat? 

Even then, even in the midst of the Storm, we can be following without knowing whom we follow and what he’s really about…  33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”” (Mark 8)  Jesus has a different agenda born of a heavenly point of view.  He sees things we do not see.  He knows things we do not know.  He sees the end from the beginning!  He is the Alpha and the Omega!  The beginning and the end!  He is God!  He has started a great work and now he calls the crowd to him along with his followers and says, ““Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”” (Mark 8)

There is no such thing as blind faith.  Jesus doesn’t do the bait and switch.  He tells us up front what’s in store.  Then he asks, do we want to be his disciple?  Even after all this?  Even knowing he is leading us right into the storm, the maelstrom, the cross?  Yes?  (Please, yes!)  Then rejoice!  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2)  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phpp 1)  It’s a walk.  It’s a way.  A path.  A process.  Do you want to someday walk on water?  Do you want the faith to someday climb out of the boat? 

Then first, you must get in.