Piggy Backing Scriptures

 

To stand on the Word, one must understand the context in which the Scripture is used.  Many people claim a Scripture without fully grasping the intent of the presented Word.  To fail to recognize the true meaning of a verse or section of verses is to open the door to potential confusion and the challenging of one’s faith.  To pluck a Scripture out of its context and adopt it as part of our faith package is to build our faith on assumptions rather than facts.

Years ago, the prayer of Jabez was publicized as the prayer of fulfillment. (I Chronicles 4:8, 9)   Pray that prayer and the benefits that Jabez experienced would be at the threshold of your life.  Books were written expounding people to “piggy back” on that prayer and their lives would be changed.  Pray that prayer and God would increase their possessions while, at the same time, extending His hand to keep them from evil and anything that would grieve them.  All across the country, churches caught the vision of the Jabez prayer and petitioned Heaven with their requests for blessings.  To add to the excitement, stories began to abound about people who prayed his prayer and received phenomenal results.  The question is why, of the 222 prayers in the Bible, was the prayer of Jabez centered out for adoption?  What people thought was that if God could bless Jabez with his request, why couldn’t God bless them; after all, God is not a respecter of persons!  The Jabez prayer was a giant shot in the arm of the “prosperity group.”  What lengths Christians go to experience materialistic abundance!  Too bad the Apostle Paul wasn’t exposed to the humanistic interpretations of the Word, for instead of learning to be content with what he had, (Philippians 4:11) he could have reigned as a chief financial officer at a highly respectable mutual fund organization.  He would not have had to make tents on the side, (Acts 18:3) but could have been the owner of the “nomad tent company.”  What should be noted is that through Jesus we have already received everything we will ever need to lead an abundant life.  So why would we go back to Scriptures under the Law and pray for what we already have!

Another area of Biblical misunderstanding is the Upper Room exchange that Jesus had with His Apostles.  Jesus told them that God’s house was filled with many mansions, and that He was going to prepare a place for them.  Many take this Scripture as an assurance that everyone has a mansion that is reserved for them.  Many funeral messages are based on this discourse.  We need to put that exchange in its proper context.  James’ and John’s mother had requested a positional role for her sons in Jesus’ futuristic Kingdom.  Jesus told her it was not up to Him, but up to God whom special seating would be given to in Heaven. (Matthew 20:23)  In the Upper Room, Jesus told His men that they would sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29)  Some time before that, He told Peter that the Apostles would sit upon 12 thrones judging Israel. (Matthew 19:28)  During the Last Supper, He told them that His departure would have a direct effect on them in the afterlife.  He shared with them that in God’s Heavenly domain (house) were places (mansions) where the Apostles would reside.  He told them He was going to make ready (prepare) for their eventual arrival.  There would be an area (place) where they would be in a position of authority.  All I know is that when I leave this life I will be with Jesus, and that’s all that matters.  The “housing” arrangement is up to Him.

There are many Scriptures that we have interpreted to benefit our comfort zones.  Let the Holy Spirit, instead of our human spirit; show us the intent of the Word.

 

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SEE GOD WORKING

Jesus realized that the road He was to travel would be an insurmountable undertaking without God’s involvement in His life. Jesus acknowledged that He came not to do His own will, but the will of God, and to do that He must have every aspect of His life in line with God’s directive. (John 6:38) God prepared Jesus, not only through the revealed knowledge of the Torah, but through the prophets and “visual aids.” God allowed Jesus to witness what He was doing. Jesus shocked those around Him when He stated that He could do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing, and that God was in fact showing Him all that He was doing. (John 5:19, 20) Jesus continued to acknowledge that “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5: 17)

Jesus revealed that the miracles God would be showing Him would even supercede what had already been seen. (John 5:20) Besides the blind seeing and the deaf hearing, nature’s energy would be tamed, causing even His Apostles to be astonished. (Luke 8:25) As His Father shared what the magnitude of miracles would be, Jesus told His followers they would do the same kind of miracles that He did, and even “greater works” because He was going to be with His Father. (John 14:12) The ministry of the Kingdom would be carried out by those who illustrated what God was doing.

Today, we must see God working, and when we do, we must be ready to be the visible evidence of that action. I have seen God working in many individuals, but due to their spiritual ignorance, they have failed to recognize God’s involvement. I have seen people set free from so many addictions. I have witnessed healings, both physical and mental. I have seen people delivered from financial crises. I have observed broken relationships restored. The amazing thing was that many of these situations involved non-Christians! God is working in the lives of people everyday. The Bible says that God desires that all be saved, and that none should perish. (I Timothy 2:4, II Peter 3:9) Believers must see God reaching out to those who do not know Him and be willing to work the works that He has commissioned us to do. Instead of dismissing the unsaved and judging their sinful behavior, let us see God reaching out to them through our hands and voices. As Jesus saw God working, He reached out and touched the untouchables. Believers need to be more observant of what God is doing. Wherever we look, we should see God working. He is working everyday in people’s lives, even the unsaved, and we need to reach out with a conscious effort to do the work He has called us to do. The world thinks that certain things happen in their life as a result of coincidence, when, in fact, it is a “God-incidence.” It is time to put on our “Son glasses” and see God working. It is time to reach out as we have seen Jesus do through the Gospels and start touching the hurting. May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

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GETTING IN SHAPE

I try to go to our local Y at least three times a week to respond to the cries of an out of shape body. The treadmills, elliptical mechanisms, bikes, free standing and attached weight machines, plus all the other instruments of torture invite me to test their resistance. Just getting ready to accept “their” invitation is challenge enough. Changing into correct apparel is a test of physical fortitude. Finally dressed as an ESPN sports figure, I ascend the 18 steps to the chamber of horrors, ready to show the machines that I am a force with which to be reckoned. Finding an available treadmill, I attempt to mount the belt to “nowhere” only to stumble and fall. Sweating profusely, I notice that those on the adjoining treadmills are looking down at me with a sense of sorrow, but are flashing a smile of sympathy in knowing that I am at least attempting to get my body under control. Instead of trying to remount the pathway to an endless finish, I look for the nearest water fountain to hydrate a body which is already fatigued. I was told that it is imperative to drink plenty of water. The trainer said that water is essential to not only losing weight, but it also helps tone the body. What we go through to get in shape is nothing short of insanity. What causes us to create such an abnormal physique in the first place? I worked long and hard to build what I have now, but to what purpose? Now I am working even harder to remove what I joyfully created! This is madness!

Just as our bodies need hydrating, so does our spirits. What determines our spiritual activity is the continual drinking from the “rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) The problem is that our minds have the power to cap the well. When the things of the world begin to dominate our thoughts and actions, the “river of living water” will face resistance. Everyday that we neglect our Bible study and prayer time, we are building a “dam” that will hold back the “river.” When we allow the things of the world to occupy our attention, we substitute other beverages for the “living water,” but tragically those only lead to a further spiritual drought. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” The water will become like a fountain that will carry one through to eternal life. (John 4:14)

So many Christians today look spiritually dehydrated. The Church used to be alive with spiritual energy; people were continually opening their Bibles as well as their ears to the Truth, and being fully hydrated, they would exhibit God’s Word wherever they went. There are assemblies of Believers that are continually drawing from the “fountain” and are living proof that the Kingdom is alive, but they are becoming the exception rather than the rule. The Holy Spirit is the pump that keeps the living water flowing through the spiritual center of man. (John 7:38) What is surprising to me is how many are ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s role in the Believer. Christians spend so much time centering on Jesus’ earthly ministry that they neglect to understand how the Holy Spirit is involved in their lives. There is also a reverse to this, in that some give so much attention to the Holy Spirit that the historical Jesus is neglected. Acts and the Epistles becomes the flagship of the “Dove” centered ministries. Let me take it one more step; we are so focused on Jesus and the Holy Spirit that we neglect the reality that everything centers on God’s Grace and Love. I believe that the reason so many denominational churches are drying up is because of spiritual ignorance. If they do believe in the Holy Spirit, it is a dispensational belief in which the Holy Spirit only worked in the New Testament Church.

The Holy Spirit wants to flow like a river within us, but until we recognize our need and are willing to acknowledge our complacency, the drought will continue. For those who are spiritually hydrated, let us reach out not in judgment, but in love, and help those who are having a hard time getting back in shape!

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UNDERSTANDING WORSHIP

Worship is probably one of the most misunderstood words in the Christian vocabulary. Many churches promote singing and emotional energy as worship. “Worship teams” strive to energize the assembled Believers into a conglomerate of “worshippers.” Much of the music is selected to stimulate the physical senses. If the music leaders can get people to feel the presence of God, they have achieved their objective. If the evidence of God’s presence is in feelings, than we don’t need faith! Many times “worship teams” become the focus of interest. Instead of setting our affections on the One who is worthy, we are busy observing the singers expressions and the clothing they are wearing. What is the purpose of “worship teams?” Do the assembled Believers really need the “varsity team” of music to lead them to the place of adoration and worship? More and more churches are attempting to present a venue of entertainment instead of a center of holiness. There is so much organization in our services that we wonder how long God will have to stay on “stage right” until the religious rituals have run their course. Time restraints order the activities of the service. If a service runs over the universal norm of 75 minute, there is restlessness or a coughing epidemic by the assembled. I don’t know how it is possible to effectively worship in the time frame that is allotted in a service. What I am seeing is that what is called “worship” is actually Praise. Praise can be limited to a designated time of expression, whereas worship is an open experience that has no time limits. I have no problem with “Praise Teams.” They are like cheerleaders that urge the assembled to get involved in the service by praising and rejoicing.

What really constitutes worship? Worship originates, and is released through the spirit of man, whereas Praise is released through the conscious will of man. Worship is an internal posture of homage and reverence that is clothed in adoration. Praise is an external exhibiting of the reality of God’s grace through vocal and physical posturing. Worship is not contingent upon feelings, but upon faith. Worship is prostrating oneself so that God is the only One standing. Worship is void of self reflection and is only conscious of the Triune God.

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman revealed what constituted true Worship. She shared that worship was only done in the location that their “Fathers” had designated. She told Jesus that the Jews claimed one had to worship in Jerusalem. (John 4:20) Jesus dismissed her assumption by telling her that the time was coming when location would not display worship. He stated that, “True worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and Truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him.” Since God is a Spirit, people must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:20-24) Worship is not dependent upon a location; rather, it happens any place where man’s spirit joins with the Holy Spirit to pay homage, honor, and adoration to the Creator. When is the last time we actually worshipped? When is the last time we placed all our energy at the disposal of our Creator? When is the last time we set our “timer” aside and basked in His presence? When we truly enter the Holy of Holies, we don’t look for an easy exit as time seems to stand still.

Today, “worship leaders” attempt to bring the assembled into worship, but only for a brief stay because of scheduling requirements. The visit to the Throne Room of God is a limited engagement due to the necessity of filling the required ritual of the service. It would be better never to pursue Worship than to make a token gesture of reverencing and adoring God only to excuse ourselves due to other pressing religious acts.

God seeks our worship, and the only way we can fulfill this is in spirit and truth! (John 4:24)

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A LOOK AT FOOT WASHING

The subject of foot washing and its relevance today has sparked countless numbers of articles written to help shed light on yet another area of Christian speculation. Jesus used the foot washing as an illustration of humility and servitude. For many months, the Apostles had been boasting about their personal attributes and self-promoted qualities. Each one thought he was a cut above his coworkers. Jesus was pointing out that greatness was not achieved by self- elevation, but rather by the servant’s posture of service.

Shortly after Peter went fishing for a “fish bank” that held a Roman coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:27), Jesus was confronted by His band of loyalists who asked Him who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Without hesitation, Jesus called a little girl from the crowd to join Him. As she sat on His lap, He told them if they would be as humble as that child, they would be in the category of one of the greatest in the Kingdom. (Matthew 18:1-4) Near the city of Capernaum, His Apostles had been debating who would be the greatest. He asked them outright what they were arguing about, but no one spoke up. Jesus understood what was going on and simply told them if any one wanted to be first, he needed to be “last of all, and a servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35) Just prior to one of Jesus’ last trips to Jerusalem, Jesus put it right on the line by saying if anyone of His Apostles wanted to be great, he would be a servant to the others. (Matthew 23:11) In the Upper Room on the night of His betrayal, Jesus shared that one of them would betray Him. They were shocked and began to seek out which one of them was the traitor. What this did was lead to the displaying of their credentials of achievement. Each one was boasting about his abilities. Jesus interrupts them and shares that the one who is more like a child, and the one who is more like a servant than a “chief,” will be the greatest among them. (Luke 22:26)

After the supper was over, Jesus took off His clothes and tied a towel around His waist and, with a bowel of water, He knelt down and washed the feet of His men. He removed His towel and dried their feet. When He finished He put his clothes back on and sat down and simply told them, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:4-17) Jesus was illustrating what He had been sharing for months: being the greatest is not a position of authority, but a position of servitude.

The Galilean and Judean walkways were dusty and dirty. Whenever a person would enter another’s house, there would be a basin of water near the door so his feet could be cleaned. Either the homeowner or his servant would wash the feet of the guest. (Luke 7:44, I Timothy 5:10) The issue of foot washing is not so much about the method, but the displaying of a servant’s heart. If today we had dirt paths and no socks, I can see foot washing as a common practice, but void of those surroundings, we need to find other ways to express ourselves as servants. One of the greatest joys in life is serving. I believe if there was a Biblical want ad, it would go something like this: “Wanted: Someone willing to center on the needs of others. Must have a humble spirit, preferring others before himself, willing to put in long hours with the possibility of no acknowledgement from others. The applicant’s service will be recorded in Heaven, where he will be rewarded for his service at a later date. He will also receive the eternal thanks of God Himself. Those with prideful spirits need not apply.” The greatest attribute of a spiritual leader is not how many followers he has or how many horizontal achievements he has achieved, but rather is he a servant!

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HE MUST

The Bible states that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” (Psalms 37:23)  Simply put, God has a plan for each one of us and will direct our lives on our spiritual journey.  Every Believer has a road to travel and the Bible is the guide book to that destination.  I think many look at God’s plan as something that will be achieved down the road.  What we fail to see is that the path God wants us to follow is a daily “ordering” of our activities.  We become so future oriented that we fail to see the here and now.  God wants to lead us every step of the way, but due to our freedom of choice, we many times choose to chart our own course.

The success of Jesus’ earthly ministry was His continual desire to follow God’s leading.  There were countless times that He sought places of solitude where He would pray and seek God’s direction for His life.  Jesus did not act according to the permissive will of God, but through God’s directive will.  Many times you hear of Jesus acknowledging God’s leading.  One day, He went into the desert to seek out God’s will.  While He was praying, people sought Him out and urged Him to stay longer with them.  Jesus simply told them that He “…must preach the Kingdom to other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:43)  On the outskirts of Jericho, He saw a man named Zacchaeus who had climbed up a tree so he could see Jesus better.  Jesus told him to come down, “…for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5)  The Bible states that on His way to Galilee He must go through Samaria. (John 4:4) There Jesus would lead a Samaritan woman into a life changing experience.  Another time, Jesus shared with His disciples that He “…must work the works of Him that sent Me.” (John 9:4)  Jesus knew what lay before Him for God had revealed it to Him many times.  He would share with His disciples how He “…must suffer many things…” (Luke 9:22, 17:25, et al)

Some Christians believe that Jesus could not fail or falter because He was the Son of God.   True, He was Divine, but He was also human.  He faced every type of situation that life presented, yet without sin.  The secret to Jesus’ earthly life was not His divinity, but His obedience to the will of His Father.  He not only sought God’s leading, but He followed it!!!  Two times, God spoke audibly to those around Jesus: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5)  There were times that Jesus struggled, yet He knew what the outcome would be because of His obedience.  It is a mistake to believe that being a Christian guarantees that life will be void of difficulties, trials, and testing.  But there is an assurance that if we follow God’s leading we will find our ways through the difficulties, trials, and testing.

Reaching the age of reflection, I have seen that many of the mistakes I have made have been a result of planning my days around my desires instead of around the desires of God.  There are many mornings that my wife and I would ask each other, “What do you want to do today?”  Many of our responses were based on fleshly desires and interests.  When are Christians going to get to the point of asking God what He wants them to do on that untouched day?

Jesus was so tuned into God that His actions were not selective, but directional with a sense of urgency. “I MUST!”  Satan could not defeat Him.  People could not discourage Him.  Challenges could not deter Him.  Jesus knew the way back to His Father was through God’s directional path.  Jesus came as the Son of Man and became the Lamb of God and left as the Son of God.

 

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When Our Prayer Seems To Go Unanswered

I believe that one of the ingredients that is used to challenge faith is unanswered prayer.  Many people have their faith shaken due to what they believe is God’s failure to answer their prayer.  People have been taught that God’s response to a Believer’s petition is either granted or denied.  To soften His denial of the request, there is offered a glimmer of hope that God may be saying “Wait.”  What if God does not answer our prayer and we continue to hold on assuming that it will be fulfilled sometime later.  The longer we wait the more frustrated we become and the danger of shaken faith syndrome raises its ugly head.

Satan sees the opportunity to inject a virus into our faith when he sees us struggling to have our prayers answered.  Satan loves to introduce thoughts that question the integrity of God’s Word.  He will emphasize Scriptures that claim certain results which are contingent on the Believer’s faith.  He will then repudiate the same verses if no evidence of its fulfillment is displayed.  He will challenge the Believer’s faith or understanding as to the intent of the Word.  The longer the Christian waits for the answer, the thinner his foundational faith could become.

I was at a restaurant last week and just casually asked the waitress how she was doing.  She responded that she was going through some difficult times.  Her husband, who had been in remission from cancer for almost two years, was just informed that the cancer had returned with a vengeance.  She said, “We have prayed, and prayed, and prayed.”  She just could not understand.  How do we respond in such a situation?  Do we jump on the prayer wagon with other well meaning people and then watch the potential down hill ride?  PLEASE understand that I believe God can heal and does heal, but there is also evidence that many are not healed, even though their healing request lines up with God’s Word.

This article is not a treatise on prayer, but an open invitation to understand the sovereignty and compassion of God.  We need to bring our faith filled request before God and then leave it with Him.  Be assured God hears our prayers, and what He does with them is not for us to question.  We must trust Him and rest in the assurance that He is aware of our concerns.  If a prayer is not answered the way we want, we must keep our focus on God’s love and assurance that He is always near and He will never leave us comfortless.  It is not time to doubt our faith, but to expand our faith that God will see us through whatever valley we face.

I needed to assure this waitress of God’s love.  Instead, I took the popular road of saying that I would pray for her and her family.  I did pray, but I failed to come along side of her with the love and presence of God.  Let us not be so quick to respond with a distant commitment to pray and forget that we are an extension of God’s love that needs to be visible to those who are traveling through faith challenging experiences.  Prayer with compassion is what God expects from every Believer, especially when it comes to responding to those in need.  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

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TRIM THE WICK

Jesus used light as an example of one of the characteristics of a true Believer.  He told His followers that they were the light of the world and as a result would stand out for all to see. (Matthew 5:14)  He said that a candle is not to be hidden but placed in a position where it can have its greatest effect.  I remember a song that I used to sing when I was growing up; it simply emphasized the importance of letting my little light shine until Jesus came.  I held up my finger and sang that I would not let Satan blow it out!  The Believer is to be a beaming example of the Grace of God.  Every candle has a limited time of usefulness.  Eventually, it will cease to be a candle, for the wick will eventually burn away.  We are not meant to live forever (earthly), but until our hour has come, we need to trim our wicks and burn brightly for the Kingdom.  John the Baptist understood that by being a burning candle, he would decrease as Jesus increased in his life.  People knew that the light John exhibited was an illumination of truth.  He never performed a miracle, but through his light he drew many people to Jesus. (John 10:4)

If there is ever a time to stand out, it is now.  Darkness is spreading across our land as the night signals the end of time.  We need true Believers that are committed to our Triune God.  It is not time to retreat to our conclaves of protection (church building), but to treat the world as a harvest field of opportunity.  Instead of being an extension of the negative news headlines, let us extend the truth of the Gospel headlines.  Instead of being drawn into the negative atmosphere by sharing how bad things are, we should be boldly presenting Jesus’ actions of forgiveness and life, both here and for eternity.  Believers talk boldly around other Believers, but when it comes to a group of non-believers, we become strangely silent.  Why it that?  Some are afraid of offending others, so they remain non-committal to any dialogue that might cause ruffled feathers.  By not initiating their rhetoric in their community, they become offended by the use of the world’s rhetoric and see themselves as martyrs of the Faith.  Jesus said that anybody who is ashamed of Him and His words, He will be ashamed of him. (Mark 8:38) Another reason for horizontal silence is the shallowness of their faith.  They simply are ill prepared to present or even defend the Gospel.  Sadly, the world seems more dedicated to displaying and defending their lifestyle than Christians do in sharing their faith.  Still another reason for verbal and behavioral silence is some Christians are only spectators and not participants in the Faith.  They attend church and think that is all that is necessary for Kingdom citizenshipJesus has called us to be witnesses of Him.  It is just not sharing the Gospel when you feel comfortable, but to be willing to share about Jesus even to the point that it may cost your life.  (The word witness is taken from the Greek word “martus” which means martyr.)  Christianity is not a game, but a life style of complete commitment.

As candles continue to flame out due to the home going of many veterans, it is imperative that new candles take their place.  God is calling for true Believers to step up and join the battle against Jesus’ nemesis and arch enemy, Satan. (Matthew 9:38)  God is not calling people to be a member of a loyal Christian fellowship, but to be part of an army that leaves the comforts of conformity and presents the uncompromising Truth to a truth starved world.  The more light, the less darkness.  How is your flame?  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

 

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The Mobile Classroom

Life presents many opportunities for us to grow in our spiritual walk.  Many times we miss these learning experiences because of our preoccupation with self-appointed priorities.  We may also miss these teaching invitations due to our religious baggage.  Jesus used many daily occurrences to instruct His followers.  One of the difficulties that He faced was correcting their misunderstanding of the Truth.   Today, for the Truth to be accepted by the spirit of man, it has to break through human misconceptions and doctrines.

Sharing with other Believers has been a very difficult road for me.  Whenever I say anything that might challenge another’s theology, their defense barrier goes up and their attentiveness diminishes.  I desire to share with others what I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me, but some will not accept anything that steps over their spiritual border.  Over the years, I have had Scripture expose the errors of my preconceived beliefs and teachings, and, as a result, I have fallen to my knees in submission to the Truth.  I have asked forgiveness for wrong interpretations, and have sought opportunities to rectify my erroneous teaching.  As I see my sunset approaching, I want more than ever to press toward the Truth.  I urge every Believer to reaffirm your faith in God’s Word, and to open your hearts and minds to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Too many are coasting in the knowledge they have acquired through the years.  It is time to reawaken that hunger for the Word of God!

Jesus conducted mobile classrooms on many occasions.  As they would be walking, Jesus would see an opportunity to bring an illustrated teaching to His Apostles.  On one particular day, His students took notice of a blind man sitting by the side of the road, and asked Jesus whether his own sin or the sin of his parents had caused this man to be blind. (John 9:2)  The Jewish people had been taught through the Law that physical calamity was basically a result of sin.  There seems to be a carryover to some groups of Christians today that believe sin and sickness are related.  (There are certain cases where sin and sickness are enjoined, but not all sickness is related to personal or family sin.)  Jesus simply told them that it is not a question of why, but rather, how the opportunity presented itself to bring glory to God.  (John 9:3)  Why are we so interested in wondering the why of something, rather than the answer to the problem?  When will we start focusing on bringing relief, instead of trying to find the reason for the flaw?  If we take the latter approach, we could open the door to judging someone.  Later on, there may be an opportunity to share what might have caused their negative situation, but it must never precede the restoration!

Jesus tells His men that together they are to carry on the ministry that God had given to Him: to “work the works” of God. (John 9:4 NAS)  Jesus and His Apostles were to reach out together to bring glory to God.  I wonder how many Believers today are pursuing a self-initiated ministry.  The only way Christians will have a successful outreach is if Jesus is in them and working with and through them.  Many churches offer countless programs with the hope of drawing more people to their fellowships.  These endeavors might cause a momentary jump in attendance, but in the long run they fail to achieve a long standing difference.  Jesus with His followers is the combination that will cause both numerical and spiritual growth.  Jesus pointed out to His Apostles that time was of the essence.  He was the light, but that light would briefly go out.  When God forsook His Son on the Cross, darkness filled the land. (Mark 15:33)  No one would work the works of God.  Some of the Apostles even went back to fishing.  When Jesus rose again, He announced that the Kingdom work would begin again.  For the next forty days, He would conduct an advanced course on ministry. (Acts 1:3)  He then commissioned them to begin fulfilling the works of God once again.  But Jesus told them not to begin until they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8)  He had also assured them that He would be with them forever. (Matthew 28:18-20)  Approximately ten days later, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles and the working for the Kingdom resumed in power.  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

 

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On the Road with Jesus

Jesus did a lot of walking during His ministry.  On this particular occasion, Jesus and His entourage were heading to Jerusalem where He would shortly offer the greatest sacrifice the world would ever know.  There, in the capital city of Judaism, he would be betrayed by one of His chosen followers.  He would be tried in a “kangaroo” court and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

On the road with Him are not only the Apostles, but a number of women and other followers.  Mark tells us that Jesus seems to separate Himself from the group and walk alone.  This is a very different behavior for Jesus and it causes amazement, and even some fear, in the group.  Finally, Jesus stops and takes the Apostles aside and informs them of what will transpire in the days ahead.  Sharing about His impending crucifixion, He also tells them that He will rise again! (Mark 10:32-34)  Almost immediately, Jesus is approached by the mother of James and John, as well as the brothers themselves.  Kneeling before Jesus, she asks if He would grant her a favor, upon which Jesus says, “What do you wish?”  Boldly, she asks that her sons could sit on His right and left side when He establishes His Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20, 21)  The brothers’ mother, along with several women, had accompanied Jesus and His Apostles on many of His “crusades.” (Mark 15:41)  Maybe she feels she has earned enough attention that Jesus will grant her request.  Jesus’ response is that she does not know what she is asking.  She is seeking personal gain and elevated representation for her sons.  Jesus must be surprised and even disappointed with what she is asking, for His life has been a life of service, not a life of positional authority.

How many of us today center our petitions around ourselves?  We seek personal blessings instead of opportunities to bless others.  We desire personal edification instead of edifying others.  We seek financial relief as a result of our careless spending instead of financial growth in order to bless others.  I wonder how many of our petitional requests would warrant the same response that the mother of James and John received.

The request that was made to Jesus was based on the Jews belief that Jesus would reestablish the Jewish Kingdom under His authority and rule.  They believed that once again the Jewish people would be restored to prominence and respect.  I believe one of the motives behind Judas’s betrayal was to force Jesus to implement His Kingdom.  This mother was requesting that her two sons would be co-rulers with Jesus.  What Jesus was saying to her was that she did not under-stand what His ministry was all about.  Today, we too, misunderstand Scripture, take things out of context, and base our beliefs on those misinterpretations.

Jesus looked past the mother and asked the two brothers if they were able to drink the “cup” that He would shortly take and able to submerse themselves in the sufferings He would experience.  They responded with confidence that they were able to do so.  Jesus affirmed their resolve and told them that was exactly what they would do.  Are we willing to follow Jesus no matter what it takes?  I am sure we will verbally proclaim our allegiance, but are we willing to take up our cross and follow Him no matter the cost?

When the other Apostles heard what James and John had requested, they became indignant with them.  Jesus, sensing the disharmony, shared that rulers will lord it over their people, but that is not what His followers were to do.  If they wanted to be great in the Kingdom, they would have to become servants.  Today, we have so many positional Believers and so few servants.  We must stop looking at what the Church can do for me; but being the Church, let us learn what we can do to serve others!  May God grant us understanding as to the intent of His Word!

(Ref: Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 10:32-42)

 

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