Friday, May 28, 2010

I Come to God to...

Do I come to God to chatter
To tell him what I did today
To reminisce about memories
No intention of changing my ways?

Do I come to God to tattle
To tell him what others did wrong
To complain about those around me
To point out how I am strong?

Or do I come to God in repentance
Telling him who I truly am
Pleading for his grace and mercy
Trusting in the great I Am?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Business is Business

Have you ever heard someone say, “Business is business”? The point is usually to excuse something that is unjust by setting business apart from everyday life. The same thing happened in Jesus’ time.

We saw yesterday how a community was terrorized by two violent men. The residents had not been able to use the graveyard for some time, but because of Jesus those men were no longer a threat. You would think the town’s people would be grateful. But they weren’t. Jesus had destroyed their livelihood by sending the demons into the herd of pigs so that they drowned. The citizens of the local town wanted Jesus to leave immediately (Mathew 8:28-34).

The fact that these Jews were raising pigs demonstrates the hardness of their hearts. Moses had forbidden the Jews to touch pigs, much less raise them. Pigs were unclean. So the men of the city were already in rebellion against God. They didn’t even pretend to be righteous.

Rebellion blinds the hearts and minds of people so they cannot recognize the works of God that are right in front of them (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pigs go swimming

Jesus had just calmed a great storm on the sea and was immediately confronted with two violent demon possessed men. One of the men had been so violent that the leaders of the community had attempted to bind him in chains. This was to no avail. The man was so strong he broke the chains like slicing through butter.

The local residents were terrorized. Night and day the strongest of the two screamed, tearing off his clothes he ran naked, bleeding from self inflicted wounds. This was especially disturbing because these men lived in the local grave yard. Can you imagine not being able to visit the grave of your loved ones for fear of your life?

Everyone knew not to go near the place, but Jesus intentionally landed on that specific shore.

“What are you doing here?” The demonic spirits demanded. “Have you come to terrorize us?” This is the only place we see Jesus carrying on a conversation with demons. Jesus asks the man for his name. The demons responded, “Legion” because there were many demons.

Jesus does an interesting thing. He casts the demons out into a herd of pigs. They immediately drove the animals off the cliff into the sea so they drown. Both men returned to their right minds and sat down to talk with Jesus (Mt 8:28-32; Mk5:1-13; Lk 8:26-33).

What is the point of the story? Neither nature nor demonic forces can withstand the power of God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sudden Storms

Jesus and his disciples got into a ship to cross over the sea to a part of the country called the Gergesenes. Mark tells us there were other ships with them, the last one carrying Jesus. A sudden storm arose with great waves spilling over the sides soaking everyone on deck. Every ship was being tossed like so many toothpicks on the ocean. Every heart raced with the fear of death (Mathew 8:23-27; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24).

Jesus, however, was perfectly at ease sleeping on a pillow at the rear of the boat. The disciples most likely thought he was exhausted from ministering had not wanted to wake him. But as the storm worsened they began to resent his sleeping. By the time they thought it was all over but the drowning, they were panicked and angry. Waking Jesus they demanded, “Don’t you care that we are about to die? Save us” (Mark 4:38; Mathew 8:25).

Jesus asks them, “Why are you fearful?”

If we were there we would probably respond, “Are you kidding? But Jesus does not wait for an answer. Instead he turns to the sea and calmly commands it to be still. Immediately the waves and winds obey his word. The sea becomes like glass and all the boats reach the shores safely (Mathew 8:23-28; Mark 4:36-41; Luke 8:22-25).

Do you have a sudden storm? Jesus’ question still rings clear. Why are you fearful?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two Would Be Disciples

Two men came to Jesus wanting to follow him more closely. One was a scribe, the other one of his disciples from the greater circle of followers. To the scribe Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mathew 8:20). In other words, if you follow me, you never know where you will end up.

The disciple asked permission to first go and bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me; and let the dead bury the dead” (Mathew 8:22). This at first sounds cruel until you realize that the man’s father was most likely still in good health. He was simply telling God that he wanted to wait to follow him until his parents died. Then he would follow Jesus.

As followers of God, we never know where God is going to lead us or when we will return to our home. Missionaries have been on the mission field when their loved ones died. God has chosen at times for his children to lose their homes.

Though following God leads to an unpredictable life, God remains faithful to us (Mathew 28:20).

Friday, May 21, 2010


“When evening had come, they brought to Him (Jesus) many who ere demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “he himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Mathew 8:16-17).

There are two kinds of healing in this passage, casting out demons and healing the sick. They are not one and the same. But neither can resist the command of our Lord.

Mathew refers to Isaiah 53, ‘”But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

We all deserve to remain in our unhealthy state, living with the consequences of our poor decisions and our rebellion against God. But God has had compassion on us and took our punishment upon himself so that we could be set free. What Jesus did for them then, he is doing for us today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Bad Cold

There is a short story in the Bible that is easily skipped over. I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon based on this scripture. I admit it would be difficult to use it as a proof text for a thirty minute sermon without there being quite a bit of speculation, because there just isn’t enough information given. Nevertheless it is an important verse or it would not have been included in Holy Scripture.

“Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them” (Mathew 8:14).

We do not know what illness was causing the fever. It could have been pneumonia, the flu, or some other common ailment. We know it was severe enough to go to bed even though she had company to serve. Jesus healed her by simply laying his hand on her.

The encouragement I receive from this short story is God cares about the smallest of our needs. People who do not know God personally, but admire him from afar, will often say, “God is too busy to think about my puny stuff.” But God does care. Yes others may apparently have worse things to deal with than I do, but he has enough compassion for them and for me.

Do not be afraid to bring even your smallest concern to him who calls himself your loving Father.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


In his discourse with the Roman Centurion, Jesus also said to the crowd, “Many will come from the east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 8:11).

Many coming from the east and west covers the entire world. God has people from every tribe, nation and tongue who belong to him (Revelation 14:6). We will sit down to eat the marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19:9) with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

There will be plenty of time for us to meet everyone and chat about what God has done for us. Imagine the wonderful stories we will hear first hand. We’ll hear what they were thinking when they faced their trials. We will hear how God put all the pieces of the puzzle together for them and the wonder and amazement they felt when at last God rescued them.

There is always lots of laughter and merriment at weddings. This will be the greatest event we have ever attended. Those who are in an intimate relationship with Jesus are invited to the wedding. Don’t miss it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Looks Aren't Everything

The Centurion comes to Jesus asking him to heal his paralyzed servant and Jesus commends his faith. In the middle of his commendation, Jesus says something quite unordinary. “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then he turns back to the Centurion and says, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour (Mathew 8:5-13).

Why would Jesus throw this seemingly unrelated discourse in the middle of healing someone? Because it is not unrelated.

The Jewish leaders who followed Jesus looked spiritual but were dead on the inside (Mt 23:27). Others appeared to be seeking God but came so they could see miracles close up and be part of the excitement (John 6:26). But there were those, like the Centurion, who did not look like they belonged to God but recognized Jesus for who he was.

Jesus is telling the crowd, it does not matter how spiritual we appear on the outside. What matters is the condition of our relationship with God.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Remarkable Faith

Not all Roman soldiers were heartless. A Roman centurion came to Jesus to plead with him to heal his servant. We can only imagine what kind of accident caused his servant to be paralyzed. We do know the man was in severe agony (Mathew 8:5-6).

Jesus said the soldier had greater faith than all of Israel. The centurion had not been a follower of the Jewish religion. His religion had more deities than we could list. There was a deity for every aspect of life. He had doubtless tried any number of remedies. Then he heard about one man, a prophet by the name of Jesus who could heal his servant. He did not waste any time finding him.

We can imagine the crowd as a Roman soldier made his way to Jesus. Most people would have made way for him as quickly as possible, perhaps hiding behind one another to avoid bringing attention to themselves. They knew this man could have anyone slaughtered at a whim and no one would have thought twice about it. He had the authority to arrest Jesus. The crowd must have held their breath as the Centurion approached the Messiah.

Imagine their amazement to hear, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”

Jesus did not flinch. He knew why the soldier had come. “I will come and heal him”, he said (Mt 8:7).

Then the words fell from the soldier’s lips that would change the life of the crippled servant and everyone else in that household. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed…”

Jesus said, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed so let it be done for you.” God honored the man’s faith in Jesus. As far as we know, the servant’s faith was not involved.

Let’s not blame the sick. Let’s pray for their healing (James 5:14:15).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shouting in the Streets

Jesus healing the leper carries another mystery. Why did Jesus instruct the man who he healed not to tell anyone about it? Isn’t healing supposed to bring glory to God? A great multitude was following him when he performed this miracle (Mt 8:1), so the miracle was certainly not a secret.

Jesus’ instructions not to tell others fulfilled two purposes. One was to fulfill prophecy given by Isaiah, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets” (Isaiah 42:1-2).

The second demonstrates that his intent is not out to glorify himself. As humans our first order of business is to take credit. “I prayed for so and so and God healed him.” “I have seen many miracles in our services.” Growing up I heard many evangelist make these claims but no miracles happened when they preached in our churches. Jesus didn’t have to brag, he just did the miracles.

His message did not point to himself, but to God.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Church of a Different Color

After Jesus healed the leper he told him to go and show himself to the priest. The Old Testament gave instructions that any leper who was no longer contagious to go to the priest so the priests could test to see if it was truly safe for the individual to return to society. But why would Jesus tell the leper to show himself to the priest when there was obviously no doubt the man had been healed?

He said he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17). So he sent the leper to the priest because the law required it and since Jesus had not yet died and had not yet risen again, everyone was still under the law.

While Jesus walked the earth, he lived the life of a dedicated Jew. He attended the synagogue (Mt 12:9) and celebrated the feasts (Mt 26:17; Lk 2:41; Jn 5:1). He did this even though the synagogue was run by Pharisees and Sadducees, hypocrites of the highest order.

Jesus was serving his Father. He came to do the work his Father sent him to do regardless of the behavior of others.

It is interesting to note the perfect Son of God attended synagogue (church) knowing full well that the leaders were not true followers of God. Yet many people today do not attend church explaining, I don’t believe in organized religion because of all the hypocrisy.

Jesus was so dedicated to worship of his father that he attended church though he knew the pastors actively were seeking to kill him.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Principles of Healing

It is far too easy to skim over words, especially if the text is familiar. Look at the Leper’s words. “And behold there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” He understood what many do not understand today. The choice to heal belongs to God, not to us (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

It is true that our faith is involved in our healing (Mt 9:22; Mk 10:52). We need to believe that God can heal, just like the leper believed (Lord, if you will, you can…). It is not our responsibility to believe that he will heal, but that he can he if he chooses.

In this case it was God’s will to heal him. We know this because Jesus said, “I will; be though clean.”

How do we know when it is God’s will and when it isn’t? We know simply by asking to be healed, believing that God can heal.

There was a man with a crippling disease whom Jesus had passed by many times and did not heal him. This man was not even a believer when Jesus did finally heal him. You can find the story in John 5:1-9. We know that Jesus often went to Jerusalem. Scripture says Jesus knew the man had been lying there crippled for a long time. This tells us out healing can be a matter of God’s timing.

But in both these cases Jesus did heal them. Is there ever a time when Jesus did not heal someone? Yes. In Acts we read about a man who was crippled from birth and had been begging at the temple gate daily since he was old enough to know how to hold out his hand (Acts 3:1-8). How many times had Jesus passed that man and never reached out his hand to heal him?

We say, but he eventually was healed. Yes, but Paul never was (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). If God does not heal our physical infirmity, it is because he has an infinite plan in which our thorn in the flesh is playing a part.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Touch

Jesus healed a leper by touching him. No one ever touched a leper. It was too dangerous. You could contract the disease and be forced to live outside the city in isolation and extreme loneliness and pain. But Jesus knew who he was and the power that flowed through him. He did not need to fear.

We can imagine how wonderful that touch was to that leper. It most likely had been years since anyone touched him. To live without touch feels like a living hell.

We are like lepers. Our sin drives a wedge between us and those we love. It alienates us from others and quickly spreads its destructive tentacles throughout society. Our most inner-self is closed off to the touch of authenticity. We slowly die from lack of open and honest contact.

But Jesus has come to touch us. To let us know we are loved. To set us free from the leprosy called sin, so that we can once again be authentic. We are free to know one another and regain our spiritual heal.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Change Orders

I work for a local government agency. We are in the midst of a three million dollar building project. In the construction industry there are things called change orders. You want to avoid them if at all possible because they bring up the cost of building extensively. When your job first goes out to bid, people who need the work get as low a price as possible so their bid will win. If they secure the job their bid means they will do the job for a set amount. After they have won the bid, some companies look for ways to make changes which mean dishing out money above the total of their bid.

We tend to face life as a customer seeking bids. We want to build our life with as little effort (cost) as possible. But change orders happen and the cost of living righteously escalates. Jesus’ words reassure us it is worth the extra cost to build our lives on the solid rock of his word.

Life’s change orders are an opportunity to see God at work in our lives. We recognize the greatest benefit during storms.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Building Houses is Hard Work

Jesus’ parable about the two men building houses on rocks and sand tells us two major truths about life. Number one is that life storms come to both believer and unbeliever. Number two a foundation on the Word of God is what will sustain us in those storms (Mathew 7:24-27).

What is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mountain is not a disjointed series of stories and principles. Each truth builds on the previous one. We are able to get better insight into the two men building houses when we relate it to what he just finished telling us.

He is making it clear that the foundation of our spiritual life is not to be things like miracles, casting out of demons, prophecies or any other supernatural manifestations. Our spiritual life is to be built on obedience to God’s Word alone.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Miraculous Ministry

We come to one of the most frightening words of Jesus. “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in our name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name/ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you…” (Mathew 7:21-23).

I am reminded of yesterday’s discussion of television evangelists. Most of us would think that successfully casting out demons would be proof enough that the evangelist was someone we should listen to. We would most likely agree that giving prophecies that came to pass would be a strong indicator that the person was sent to us by God. And if the person cast out demons, gave accurate prophecies, told us things about ourselves that no one else could know and performed miracles that would certainly be proof that God sent him or her. We would record their sermons, buy their books and put their teaching into practice.

But Jesus said there will be those whose ministry is filled with all of these and they still do not belong to him. Jesus will say to them on judgment “Depart from me I never knew you.” We ask ourselves, “If these powerful men and women cannot enter heaven, how will I ever get in?”

Jesus does not leave us guessing. He tells us plainly, “But he who does the will of my father.” It is he who has been born again and obeys God’s commands enters heaven (John 3:3-8; 14:15’ 1 John 2:3-6).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Say Cheese

The problem with television evangelist is just that. They are on television. There is no way to examine their lives, because we cannot know them. Jesus said to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Mathew 7:15). They look good. They sound good. But they are like iron pyrite (fool’s gold). They sparkle in the sun. Their words appear to have great value, but are worthless.

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from throne bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you shall know them.” (Mathew 7:16-20).

We do well to ask, what are the fruits? Is it “good preaching?” Is it abundance of scripture? Is it reasonable presentation? Is it the way they stir our hearts? Is it the way we are moved to action?

We find the answer in Galatians 5:22-24. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is o law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” If we are unable to interact with them how can we know these things about them?

Cameras do not lend themselves to accurate fruit inspection. It is too easy to adjust the lens.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Decent Meals

The best of men make honest mistakes. The best mothers make honest errors. But no decent mother or father will give their children gravel for breakfast, black widow spiders for lunch and live rattlesnakes for dinner. Neither will God give us things that harm our spirit (Mathew 7:9-11).

We can always trust God to work eternal good in us and for us.