APOLLOS

Evangelist Apollos built a reputation as a dynamic speaker who generated a large number of followers.  His knowledge of the Scriptures was unchallenged. (Acts 18:24,25)  His enthusiasm and fervent zeal for the Word of God produced disciples from Ephesus to Corinth.  He was so idealized in Corinth that people began to promote his ministry above those of Paul, Peter, and even Christ. (I Corinthians 1:12)  The attachment to the messenger was a serious problem in the expansion of the early Church.  Sadly, the thread of human attachment to the messenger has continued through the generations.  The elevation of “spiritual” leadership to a role of sainthood has hindered the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Paul wrote a stern letter to the Corinthians to stop elevating individuals above the message.  He called such seekers carnal, who need to understand that the messengers are just relaying what God has directed them to say.  He pointed out that he may have planted the Word and Apollos watered the Word, but it was God who gave the increase (I Corinthians 3: 5,6)

Apollos had received teachings from his “denominational” headquarters and presented accurately the truth that was taught him.  The problem was the teachings he received had not gone far enough.  He was taught Old Testament 101 and Repentance 202 up through John the Baptist’s ministry. (Acts 18:25)  Today, many denominational and independent churches center on only certain aspects of Biblical truths.

One day, Apollos was speaking at the local Synagogue in Ephesus.  The people eagerly listened as this charismatic speaker shared the Gospel message.  In the crowd that day was a husband and wife evangelistic team that had accompanied Paul on a number of his crusades.  After the meeting, Aquila and Priscilla met with Apollos to help him fine-tune his message. (Acts 18:26)  Encouraged by what they shared, he decided to take his ministry to Corinth.  There he encouraged those who already believed, as well as confounded the Jews by showing that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:27,28)  Much of teaching today is limited to the basics.  We preach and teach repentance and the accepting of Jesus as Savior, but we fail to present the Holy Spirit and Jesus as Lord.  The result is we have “baby” Christians that never mature.  There seems to be contentment in our spiritual lives, rather then a questing for spiritual growth.  Apollos persuaded many Jews to accept that Jesus was the Christ, but there seemed to be no follow up.  He knew only the “baptism of John.” (Acts 18:25)  But by the actions of Aquila and Priscilla, he was able to share the complete Gospel.  I believe one of the greatest mission fields today is the Church.  Believers need to reach out to the unsaved, while at the same time encouraging each other to quest for the Kingdom.  Repentance and acceptance of the Savior, followed by the empowering of the Holy Spirit and service should be the journey every person should take.  Let our churches move from being nurseries to places of higher learning.

In our journey in the Kingdom, let us never lose sight of our goals; for when we do, we will follow our own agendas instead of God’s.  Apollos let success go to his head and as a result pursued his own desires.  Paul wanted him to return to Corinth to help with the church, but he was “unwilling” to do so.  He would come at a “convenient” time, in other words, when he was ready. (I Corinthians 16:12)  I urge all spiritual leaders to never let success go to their head.  It is not their ministry, but God’s ministry.  It is not their timing, but God’s timing.  It is not their way, but God’s way.   It is not listening to people, but listening to God.  It is not justifying their ministry by numbers, but by seeing changed lives.  It is not about them, but all about Him!

 

 

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I WANT A MIRACLE

When does a supernatural occurrence qualify as a miracle?  Are all miracles supernatural manifestations?  What role does faith play in witnessing Divine interventions in life?  Who initiates the miracles?  Can one’s personal faith ignite an action in someone else?  As one mills around these questions, other thoughts will present themselves.  Does our faith move God, or does God move independently of our faith?  How much of a role do we play in the miracles that present themselves?

Peter, at one of the inner gates of the Temple, confronted a lame man who had never walked.  This individual was carried daily to the Temple area to ask for alms.  When Peter and John saw him, Peter told him to look at them.  He then commanded him to get up and walk.  The man must have hesitated, for Peter took him by the hand and lifted him up.  When he saw that he could stand, he immediately started walking, leaping, and praising God. (Acts 3:2-8)  This man exhibited no faith; rather, it was Peter’s faith in the name of Jesus that brought about the healing. (Acts 3:16)

Paul, in the city of Lystra, also confronted a lame man who had never walked.  As Paul was preaching, he noticed a cripple who was carefully listening to the word.  Paul looked at this man intently and realized that the word he brought had initiated faith in this individual.  So Paul commanded him to stand up and walk.  The Bible says the man leaped up and walked. (Acts 14:8-10)  Paul did not need to help him up or assist him in anyway, for the man’s faith ignited the healing.

When our faith brings about the supernatural, should it not be a normal experience?  Biblical miracles were used to bring attention to the message.  Once the message is secured in an individual, they will begin to act on God’s Word.  Signs and wonders are to bring attention to God.  Once we enter the family of God, miracles will be administered, but the purpose is not for the “sign seeking” Christians, but for the lost that need to be drawn to the Savior.  For Believers to gather in a closed environment to seek “miracles” for themselves is to miss the point completely.  To the Believer, the miracle of faith is what opens the door to the supernatural; whereas, the unbeliever is drawn to faith through the supernatural.

Peter lifted up the lame man.  Paul commanded the cripple man to get up by himself.  We need, as Peter did, to reach out to the “whosoever.”  Let us lay hands on the “lame,” expecting to see the power of God.  May our faith influence the “fence riders.”  We need, as Paul did, to encourage those with beginner faith.  We need to speak encouragement to those whose “walk” is difficult.  For years, I have heard Christians say that they need a miracle.  This shows how misguided we are.  We don’t need a miracle, for we have been given everything we need for an abundant life. (II Pet. 1:3)  What we need is to walk in faith and appropriate what God has given us.  When we get in a mess we tend to ask God to bail us out.  We must remember that what we sow outside of the Word will reap the consequences.  Miracles are the sinners “get out of jail card,” not the Believers way of recovering from a miscalculation.

Let us replace our mirrors with windows.  Let us walk with the assurance that we are the representatives of God’s Kingdom.  It is not a question of what God can do for us; rather, what we can do for God.  Let our shadow move over the lost, exhibiting the power of the Holy Spirit, as did Peter’s in Jerusalem. (Acts 5:15)

 

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THEY MISSED IT

Watching the stoning of Stephen was a young “religionist” by the name of Saul. (Acts 7:58)  He was well versed in the Jewish Law.  He had received his training under the great Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3)  His knowledge of the Jewish faith elevated him to a “valedictorian” status. (Galatians 1:14)  His father must have been a positive influence on his life, for Saul’s educational journey would lead to him becoming a Pharisee, just as his father. (Acts 23:6)  As Saul watched the stoning of Stephen, he knew that his time had come to play an active role in opposing this new religious movement that was proving to be a serious challenge to Judaism.  Jerusalem became the hub of persecution against this newly formed group of religious heretics. (Acts 8:1)  It seems that Saul became the spear head of this “religious cleansing.”  He led raids throughout the city arresting those who dared to follow the teachings of Jesus. (Acts 8:3)  As the Jesus followers fled the city, Saul pursued them with extradition papers to seize and arrest them, especially in Damascus.  (Acts 9:1, 2)

The question is how could such a learned individual as Saul fail to discover the timely application of Scriptures that pointed to the coming of the Messiah?  Just in the book of Psalms, there are over 101 verses that point to Jesus as the Christ.  Isaiah has 124 verses that specifically speak to whom Jesus really was.  In fact, there are over 355 Old Testament verses that apply to Jesus. When the Wise Men came to Jerusalem to enquire about the birth of the King of the Jews, the whole city was troubled. (Matthew 2:3) The Chief Priest and Scribes informed Herod that He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, fulfilling Micah 5:2.  This should have caused tremendous excitement to the religious community.  The Sanhedrin should have appointed a “grand jury” to investigate the merits of the inquiry of the Wise Men.  Special committees should have been formed to travel to Bethlehem to gather all the information they could.  Scriptures should have been opened that might shed light to a possible arrival of the long awaited Messiah.  Instead, Herod the King ordered all children living in Bethlehem and coastal regions under the age of two to be executed. (Matthew 2:16)  The religious community dismissed the inquiries of the Wise Men as unfounded speculation.  How could one of the most respected Pharisees and a member of the Council, Gamaliel, have missed the significance of the Bethlehem birth?  Even after Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies the organized Jewish community failed to connect the Scriptures and recognize their Messiah.

The Jewish leaders centered their teachings on restoring the Jewish Kingdom to a place of prominence in the world. Through that process they elevated selected Scriptures to the fore front.  They separated themselves from the common believers, by promoting themselves as mediators between man and God.  The Oral Law reinforced their agendas.  Saul was taught by the biased Jews who pursued their own interest.  After his eyes were opened at his conversion, Saul, now known as Paul, could hardly wait to share the real Truth.  Today we face similar obstacles to the real truth.  Promotions of selective truths penetrate the Christian community.  There are many sincere Believers that have been blinded to the real Truth by those who have elevated themselves to a self promoted position of authority.  The Bible is not a Lego manual, where man builds his own theology.  It is not a book to pick and choose what we think will satisfy our spiritual lives.  I believe that the Church is missing God’s intent by listening to teachings that cater to the senses instead of the spirit.  The Truth is there, we just need to center on the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.  When we discover the whole Truth, we will as Paul did, be eager to share it with others.

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YOU HAVE NO CASE!

 

Ignorance to Scriptural teachings will not justify one’s lack of obedience.  Every Believer has the responsibility to search and accept Biblical truths.  So many accept the foundational truths, but fail to build upon them.  Jesus is Savior, but He is also Lord!  To set parameters to our spiritual growth is to fail to understand the breadth, length, depth, and height of the Grace of God. (Ephesians 3:16-21)  So much of our beliefs are based on introductory or elementary “schooling.”  Inundated with the basics of the Christian life style are recess, lunch, gym, and field trips with supervision.  Very little “homework” is issued.  Christian leaders seem to center their emphasis on one message a week, followed by unsupervised “free time” where their “sheep” are free to pursue whatever agendas they want.  Being a substitute high school teacher, I have found a growing number of students that just want to get by with the least amount of effort.  Sadly, I have also been witness to the same type of attitude with Christians.  They want just enough “religion” to get them through the pearly gates.  Eternal Life begins in the here and now.  Jesus proclaimed that He came that we might have life and “have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  Our earthly existence is a prelude to our Heavenly home.  Yet, Christians sing their songs that depict a life long journey of heartache and sorrow.  Certain hymns cry out with lyrics depicting a weary, worn, and tired Christian that can barely hold on to the end.  What we sing in communal worship usually depicts where we are spiritually.  It is time for the Believers to start proclaiming the joy of Christian living.

One of Peter’s early sermons in Jerusalem was addressed to those who were part of a mob mentality that believed a murderer should be freed instead of Jesus.  They followed the “media” and believed the” fake news” that Jesus violated Jewish Laws and should be crucified.  Peter acknowledged that it was through ignorance that they did it, but it was no excuse for their behavior.  He called upon them to repent of their actions so their sins would be forgiven them. (Acts 3:17-19)  If the Jews had only understood the Prophets, they would not have made such a volatile mistake.  Christians cannot claim ignorance when they have failed to find what is beyond the basics of the Faith.  The Word is there for our learning.  The Bible is not an elective, but a mandatory collection of books that instructs us in the principles of life.  It is a collection of God’s compassionate authority over His creation.  It is a must read for every Believer.  There will be a final exam in which God will ask the ultimate question of what we have done with our relationship with Jesus.  It is more then claiming faithful attendance in church.  It is more then boasting of how much of God’s money we gave back to Him.  It is more than being part of the “worship team.”  It is more then holding a position of authority within the local body of Believers.  We all have our self displayed credentials, but if what we have to offer falls short of what is expected of us, we will have a lot of explaining to do when we stand before Him.

Ignorance cannot be pleaded when we have access to the Word of God.  We can attend all the lectures by spiritual shepherds, but we are also required to do our homework.  We are to study to show ourselves approved before God, one who knows how to rightly divide the Word of God through understanding. (II Timothy 2:15)  Let us encourage each other to do our homework, and if someone is having a hard time understanding the assignment, let us help one another, for we all want to graduate.

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WHAT ABOUT THOSE ASLEEP?

There will always be speculation as to the events surrounding Jesus’ Second Coming.  Almost immediately after Jesus’ ascension, people began to second guess when He would return.  Generations of Believers have pronounced with certainty when to expect His appearance.  As the failed timelines of His return continues to cross the centuries, Believers still present “new evidences” that will mark His return.

Tied closely to this subject, is the misunderstanding of how the deceased and those who are alive at His coming will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:17)  There was a concern among the early church as to what happens to those that have already died.  If the Lord comes to take the Believer, what about those who are already dead; are they lost forever?  Paul explains to the Thessalonians that the Lord will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.  The question immediately arises as to where have they been?  In Peter’s sermon on Pentecost he reveals a place called Hades.  This is a place where those who die go to await the Second Coming of Jesus.  Peter quotes from Psalms 16 where David talks about how God would not allow Him to remain in Hades.  Since David was prophesying about Jesus, Peter brought it out that Jesus went to Hades, and then God brought Him out through the Garden Tomb.  It is interesting to note that while in Hades, Jesus preached to the “captives” and told them the way to God had been opened because of the Cross. (I Peter 3:19, 20)  Careful study of the Scripture will show that there are two parts to Hades.  One is where the general assembly of people who have died remain; while the second part of Hades is called Paradise, where the Believers are assembled.  Jesus told the repentant thief on the Cross that he would be with Him “today” in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)  Paul related how he knew a man who was caught up into Paradise and saw things that could not be shared with anyone. (II Corinthians 12:2-5)  With careful reading of this section, one will see that Paul was talking about himself.  In Revelation 2:7, John describes that those who “overcome” will be able to eat of the Tree of Life which is located in Paradise. (Revelation 2:7)  The word Paradise comes from the Greek word that means a park or a place of future happiness.  It can also be applied as “Eden.” As God wandered around the Garden of Eden, so I believe that Jesus makes His presence known to the Believers experiencing the “heavenly Eden.”

What will happen at the Second Coming?  When the Lord returns there will be a great shout and the trumpet of God will sound and those in Paradise will be gathered together to join Jesus as He descends from Heaven.  Those who are alive at that time will be caught up and joined with the previously “sleeping Believers.”  Together, the Believers will ever be with the Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)  When Jesus exited the tomb He told Mary not to touch Him for He had not yet ascended to His Father. (John 20:17)  What Mary saw was Jesus’ spiritual body.  (I Corinthians 15:44)  Those in Paradise have already received their “celestial” bodies. (I Corinthians 15:40)  When God sends His Son back to earth’s atmosphere, Believers who have been in Paradise return with Him to witness the transformation of those who are alive at His appearance.  At last, the Church is unified, and Satan’s reign of spiritual terror is finally over.

I have heard so many explanations of I Thessalonians 4:16-17 that it would take a seasoned spiritual veteran to weigh through the different scenarios.  I do not believe that Believers who have fallen asleep are still in the grave waiting for Jesus’ return.  Neither do I believe they have preceded us into Heaven.  I am not asking anyone to accept my understanding, but rather to search the Scriptures for himself.  All I can say for sure is that one day I will be with the Lord, whether it be in Paradise and then Heaven, or directly into Heaven if He should come in my life time.  Be comforted!

 

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BEING SPIRITUALLY SMART

When it comes to Biblical understanding and its application, many Christians lack KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM.  Without these basics of the Faith, the road to spiritual growth will be a difficult journey.  When we fail to comprehend what the Scriptures are truly saying, there will inevitably be misunderstanding of foundational truths.  Many of the errors that are displayed in the Believer stems from not understanding what the Scriptures are saying.  Through misinformation, which is issued through teaching, and aided by visual and audio aids, there is a blind acceptance of the message.  Some Believers cannot defend their beliefs with true Biblical confirmation.  Teachings that are Biblically unverifiable can lead to uncertainty.  Over the years, I have counseled struggling Christians who have questioned their own faith.  They had taken Scriptures out of context, and with emotional certainty, failed to experience their hopeful expectation. The majority of these Believers have adopted teachings that are wrong.  God’s Word works, but we have to understand its rightful meaning.

One of the problems of not understanding Biblical intent is that we let others teach, preach, and share their understanding of God’s Word instead of opening the Word ourselves.  Not every “pulpiteer” is called of God.  Sadly, there are pastors that are self-called and, as a result, interpret Scripture with a desire to please their congregants instead of God.  There is no substitute for self-examination of God’s Word.  When is the last time we sat down and truly studied God’s Word? God said “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6)  Believers need to get back to an “open book policy” of reading and studying God’s Word daily.  When we gain knowledge from the Word, we need to walk in obedience to the Word.  A Believer must be aware of God’s timing.  We are called to share the Gospel message, but not in a shot gun pattern where we spray everyone with Truth.  Wisdom understands when and where to share the Gospel.  When we share haphazardly, we can do more damage than good.  There are many who are turned off to the Christian message simply because of timing.  Wisdom is needed to understand how to use the Word more effectively.  Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives is essential, not only to our understanding, but to the promoting of the Word.

As we develop Knowledge, we will become more aware of Satan’s role in this world.  Jesus called him the “prince of this world.” (John 14:30)  Paul identified him as the “god of this world.” (II Corinthians 4:4)  Satan uses people to promote his kingdom.  One of the tricks that Satan uses is to misdirect Christians.  Divisional Christianity divides the Body of Christ.  Unification is not politically correct, but is one of the essential aspects to the Kingdom experience.  Schisms within the Church will hinder Church growth.  Lack of forgiveness is one of Satan’s weapons of choice when it comes to Believers.  Forgiveness is not an elective.  I have heard people say that they will forgive someone, but not forget their actions.  That is just double talk.  So much of our actions are based on Scriptural ignorance.  Knowledge identifies truth, while Wisdom knows how to implement truth.

In these perilous times we must sit at the Banquet Table and take of the Word until our Spirits are full, and then step out in faith to the challenges of the World.  It is not a weekly “Table” sitting, but a daily consuming of the Word.  Fully armed is fully prepared!

 

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THE UPPER ROOM EXPERIENCES

 

Hours after Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His secluded Disciples who were gathered in the room where they had previously shared the Passover supper (Last Supper) with Jesus.  After pronouncing His peace unto them, He breathed on the group and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  (John 20:22)  To many, this creates a mild sense of confusion, for it wasn’t until a few days later that He commanded them to remain in Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5)  To fully understand what was happening, we need to examine the Scriptures, especially the first two chapters of Acts.

 For forty days after His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth teaching a graduate level course on the Kingdom of God.  This was not a refresher course, but rather a level of teaching that could only be comprehended through the Holy Spirit.  Instead of seeing God’s Kingdom related only to the Jews, the door to God’s ultimate plan for mankind was opened.  The teachings that Jesus gave laid the foundation for the birth of the Church.  The day of Jesus’ Ascension, He instructed them not to preach or teach until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Receiving the Holy Spirit gave the Disciples the ability to receive Truth, while the Baptism of the Holy Spirit gave them the power to display the Truth.  Through tutorship and empowerment, the Holy Spirit affected the lives of the Disciples.

The Eleven returned to the Upper Room where they spent time in prayer.  Jesus’ mother, along with some women, and His brothers were in attendance. (Acts 1:12-14)  A few days later, Peter called an assembly of Believers to gather for a business meeting.  Here about 120 people assembled to discuss the replacement for Judas.  One will quickly notice upon reading of this account that there is a difference in Peter.  He is quoting Scripture and speaking, not as a novice, but a seasoned Believer.  The Holy Spirit was directing his effort.  After Matthias was elected, the assembly was dismissed. (Acts 1:15-26)  The 12 would continue to gather in the Upper Room to pray and wait for the fulfillment of Jesus’ words.

A few more days passed and the Feast of Pentecost began, commemorating the giving of the Law.  (Fifty days after Passover.)  In the Upper Room were assembled the 12 Disciples.  On this special day, Jesus’ words were fulfilled and the Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit.  These 12 began to speak in languages that they did not know. (Acts 2:1-4)  It was shortly after the overpowering of the Holy Spirit that they went to the Temple area to begin to fulfill Jesus’ commission of witnessing in Jerusalem.  The city was filled with people there for their religious obligation to attend Pentecost.  To their astonishment, they heard men declaring the wonderful works of God in their individual native languages.  People were amazed, and wondered at this phenomenon.  Some spectators even thought these men were drunk. (Acts 2:5-13)

Peter, the same man who weeks ago complained to Jesus that John was not asked to do something (John 21:21), now stands before a multitude to proclaim a message that would result in the conversion of over 3,000. (Acts 2:41)  Jesus had taught him through the Holy Spirit during those 40 days (Acts 1:2), and now Peter was empowered to present the Word with convicting power. (2:14-41)  The Disciples would spend many days sharing the Gospel around the Temple.

The Upper Room experiences were life changing for the Disciples: from the Passover Supper and foot washing, to experiencing the resurrected Jesus, to understanding prayer and its potential, to conducting business, and finally, to receiving the promise of God. (Acts 1:4)  The world would soon feel the impact of a generation of Spirit filled people, who had a message to share.

 

 

 

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LET’S GET IT RIGHT

 

The misinterpretation of Scripture is due to the failure of putting things into the correct context.  To simply take a verse and adopt it into one’s arsenal of spiritual assurances is to almost guarantee a setback when it is applied as an evidence of one’s faith.  To apply Scripture incorrectly, not only leads to frustration, but is also a stumbling stone to young Believers who are questing for real truth.  When reading God’s Word, we must understand the context of the text.  The 39 books of the Old Testament and the first 4 books of the New Testament were written as a recorded history of the Jewish people.  What one sees in them is the interaction of God with His chosen people.  To miss this point is to open the door to misunderstanding Scripture.  The remaining 23 books of the New Testament are about God’s adopted children, now defined as the Church.  We learn from the OT, and are taught through the NT.  The majority of problems that face Believers today are the result of misguided teaching.  I have heard teachings from the OT that caused simple Believers to experience a euphoria that only lasted until they faced their next problem.  I am not saying that the OT is not relevant to today’s Believers, but I am saying the context of the Scripture must be understood so it can be correctly interpreted and applied.

 

The Bible is so easy to understand, yet we make it so difficult to grasp its intent.  The Bible is not for our entertainment, but for Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, and Instruction in Righteousness. (II Timothy 3:16)  Throughout the OT we see the lows and highs of people whom God loved so much.  Their mistakes are there for our learning and their victories for our encouragement.  We need to learn from their errors so that we will not make the same mistakes.  In the OT we see a fear of God, but today that fear has vanished.  In the OT we see God’s punishments and forgiveness, but today we don’t see God’s continual judgments, and we take for granted that God’s forgiveness is automatic.  We tend to pick and chose what OT Scriptures will best serve our needs and purposes.  We paraphrase events from the Law to make them relevant in our Grace-centered lifestyle.  One of the violations of undivided Truth is Malachi and the teaching of Tithing.  To justify 10% dutiful obligation is to limit the church’s outreach.  The majority of church finances never leave the building, for it is used to maintain its visibility.  Pastors will never teach against “Law Tithing” for it would jeopardize their support.  Under Grace, the 100% rule is in effect.  It all belongs to God and, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church can move beyond the money soliciting to presenting the empty tomb.  Peter said to the beggar at the Temple Gate that he had no “silver and gold” to give him, but what he had was worth so much more: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)  Today, the Church has lost its vision.  We may never say we have no silver or gold, but sadly, so few will say RISE UP AND WALK!

 

The Church needs to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  Not to differentiate between the Testaments will create a puzzling and complicated faith.  I am not saying that the OT does not have applications under Grace, but it must be understood before it can be acted upon.  To see the prophecies of the coming of Jesus, and then to witness His ministry through the Gospels is truly life changing.  To see God dealing with His chosen people ignites one’s interests.  To see the great men of faith walking through the challenges of life gives us hope.  To read about the mistakes that men made gives us warnings against hardening our hearts.  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to rightly divide the Word of God.  Instead of reckless abandonment to Scriptural interpretation, we will learn the appropriate meanings of the Word and its applications to our lives.

 

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THE INCIDENT AT BETHSAIDA

One of the most unusual miracles that Jesus performed was done in Bethsaida.  Here a blind man was brought to Jesus by a group of individuals that were determined to witness yet another supernatural manifestation.  They were so involved in witnessing the miraculous that when they brought the man to Jesus they begged Him to heal him.  It does not seem that the blind man was self-motivated to receive healing, or if they were close friends or acquaintances; rather, it was the excitement of the group that wanted to see a miracle.  The group motivation is similar to the four men who had torn a hole in the roof of a house so they could lower a man suffering from palsy to Jesus.  The Bible says that when Jesus saw their faith, He spoke healing to the man on the pallet. (Mark 2:1-12)  In both of these incidents, the afflicted showed no commitment to the potential miracle.  Jesus, sensing the motivation from the group at Bethsaida, takes the man by the hand and leads him out of the village, away from the circus atmosphere.  Jesus then does something that would shock even the most neutral observer; He spits on the man’s eyes!  Seemingly totally out of character with His healing miracles, He asks him what he sees.  The man responds by saying that men look like trees walking.  Jesus puts His hands on him again, and this time his sight is fully restored.  After the man’s healing, Jesus tells him not to go back into the village or to tell what has happened to anyone from the town, at least for that day. (Mark 8:22-26)

What are we to draw from this unusual account?  People can be motivated or influenced by the excitement of others.  There is nothing to infer that the blind man anticipated that he would ever see again.  He consented to be the focal point of the experience, but it was more an appeasement to the miracle seeking group.  Notice the man did not request the healing, but the group insisted on it, even beseeching Jesus to do it.  Jesus shocked the crowd by leading him outside the village.  What He was doing was weaning the blind man from the sign seekers.  The spitting on his eyes was the first step toward his healing.  The spitting was the bridge between signs and personal faith.  When his sight was restored partially, he was “seeing” the possibility of complete sight restoration.  When Jesus laid His hands on him the second time, the man’s faith kicked into gear and sight was restored.  I have seen over the years many who have been physically challenged being urged to attend “arenas” where miracles could be witnessed.  People are talked into going because of the excitement of sign seekers.  I have even seen the promoting of financial giving to assist in one’s healing.  People fall for this because of the excitement of others.

Another time, Jesus spit on the ground and made clay and anointed the eyes of a blind man.  He told him to go wash and, when he did, his sight was restored.  (John 9:1-7)  Jesus knows what each one of us needs, and we don’t need over-zealous groups leading us to where they want to go.  Much of the confusion about healing is brought about by a lack of Biblical understanding.  In Jericho, a blind man named Bartimaeus was healed by his own faith. (Mark 10:46-52)

Healing is not a circus event, rather, a gathering with Jesus outside of the village of sign seekers.  It is brought about by being led by Jesus to a place where our faith can be birthed.

 

 

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Self-Initiated Faith

The Disciples followed Jesus with a sense of excitement and amazement.  They responded to Jesus’ leadership to the point of blind obedience.  There were things they did not understand, but they were willing to follow Him no matter what.  The three year course on Grace and its effect on human nature caused them to experience the valleys and mountains of emotional responses.  Their reactions to Jesus’ teachings and miracles were expressions of both bewilderment and joy.  Jesus witnessed their emotional responses to life and by His tough love He continued to teach them.  He would verbally chastise them for their lack of faith or their hardened hearts.  They would see a miracle, but within days they would forget its significance.  The Disciples took part in the feeding of the five thousand and witnessed a miracle, but within a short time, when confronted with four thousand hungry people, their memory bank had no recall of the previous miracle of the feeding of the multitudes.  Sometime later, Jesus rebuked them because of their hardened hearts, and sternly questioned their lack of understanding of His power to provide. (Mark 8:17-21)  As one studies the Scriptures, (that have not been underlined!) one will be brought into an awareness of the shallow faith of the Disciples.  Whenever they were with Jesus, they walked with the assurance that their faith was in full operating mode.  However, when they were not with Jesus, their reasoning overshadowed their faith.  In fact, even after His resurrection when He appeared to them in the Upper Room, He rebuked them because of their unbelief and hardness of heart. (Mark 16:14)  There is a tremendous similarity between the Disciples and Believers today.

When we are around other Believers, our Faith is manifested for all to see.  But when away from other Christians or spiritual surroundings, we display a different action that is built upon feelings instead of faith.  When the Disciples could not heal a young boy, they sought out Jesus and asked Him what they were doing wrong.  Jesus simply told them it was because of their unbelief.  It seems that these men were resting on the faith of Jesus and not their own faith.  When it came time to initiate their faith, they failed miserably.  What Jesus was telling them was that their verbal faith was active, but the root of their faith was almost non-existent.  Verbal faith talks about belief, but displays little or no results.  Jesus told them that if they had the least amount of faith (mustard seed) they would be exposed to unlimited possibilities.  They would be able to move obstacles from their paths.  I can just hear Jesus’ compassionate voice telling them that nothing was impossible to those who had true faith. (Matthew 17:20)  How many of us know all about Faith, but when we need to exercise that faith, we revert to feelings and emotions.  To counter that action, we get together with other Believers and “piggy back” on their faith.

When the Disciples failed to bring about healing to this young boy, the father sought out Jesus.  Jesus simply told him if he believed, all things were possible.  I can see Jesus looking at His men as he said this, hoping they were hearing what He was saying.  The man responded (with tears flowing down his face) that he, in fact, believed, but needed help with his unbelief. (Mark 9:24)  We have many Christians today that verbalize that they have faith, but when push comes to shove; their faith is useless to their “mountain” situations.  All Believers are given a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)  We then have the responsibility to develop that faith into an action of extraordinary power.  One way to grow that seed faith is through hearing the Word of God and then watering it with our obedience. (Romans 10:17)  The more we feed the faith seed, the more growth we experience, and the more potential for “mountain moving” results.  Eventually, when situations arise, we will be able to initiate our faith to the point of displaying God’s Word with assurance.  It is more than saying we have faith; it is displaying what we proclaim.  Self-initiating faith is not contingent on the faith of others, but it is based on our own initiative to face whatever situation presents itself.

 

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