Do you believe?

I have a special corner of my house that I use almost exclusively for reading my Bible. There’s a comfy couch, pillows, and a blanket from Mexico. Surrounding said couch is books. Lots of books: Bibles in at least five translations and two languages, dictionaries, concordances, sermon references, and commentaries. I love reading through other’s thoughts on what I’ve read. Sometimes theses books confirm my own ideas. Sometimes they open up a new way of thinking. And sometimes, like today, they are downright disappointing and even disturbing.

I read this today in a popular commentary:

The signs authenticated the faith the early believers proclaimed, not the personal faith that any one of them exercised. In light of this and historical evidence it is reasonable to conclude that these authenticating signs were normative only for the apostolic era.

To what signs is the writer referring?

[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)

Nothing in Jesus’ commission to his disciples indicates that signs would only follow for a few decades. There is no time frame or limit in this passage. Jesus simply stated that signs will follow believers. Period.

So what happened? Why do we Westerners see so few signs, wonders, and miracles? Ask yourself this question:

Do you believe?

If a well-respected commentary can state that miracles were only for the early apostolic period, imagine what is being taught in our churches all over the world.

Allow me to break this down logically.

Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news. What good news was that? That Jesus had come to save them, to offer a new covenant through his blood rather than the blood of a sacrificial animal. This new covenant would bring eternal life to the spirit of any who accepted it.

Jesus told the disciples to baptize the new believers. Why? Baptism is an outward confirmation of an inward decision. You don’t need to be baptized to be saved, but it is a physical affirmation of a spiritual awakening.

Jesus told the disciples that miraculous signs would follow them.

Observe what power the apostles should be endued with, for confirming the doctrine they were to preach. These were miracles to confirm the truth of the gospel, and means of spreading the gospel among the nations that had not heard it.

Matthew Henry

Here’s my question: If signs and wonders aren’t for today, how is our message supposed to be confirmed? Why did Jesus go around healing people and teaching his disciples how to do the same if he didn’t mean for that practice to carry on? If miracles weren’t needed, why did Jesus bother at all? If the message is supposed to be enough, why is our message getting lost?

I believe in miracles. I have seen them firsthand. I have seen broken bones mend. I have seen stunted limbs grow. I have seen life when there should have been death. And I have seen people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of those things. Miracles aren’t a sign for believers. They are a benefit to us because we believe, but they are a sign to the unbeliever that there is power in the blood that washes away our sins.

At the risk of reducing the Word to a new low, let me put it simply. You’re watching television late at night and a loud Australian appears on the screen with an incredible new product. He spends ten minutes yelling at you, touting the near-miraculous qualities of the product he’s trying to sell. You stay tuned because you’re moderately interested and oddly enthralled. Then he puts the product to use. You’re sold. You dial the 1-800 number before the five minutes runs out and, for just the added shipping and handling, you will receive a second item for free! It wasn’t his words that sold you, it was the product in action.

The Word of God draws people in. And for some, that’s all they need. But others need that extra confirmation. They need to see the product in action. They need to see what it can actually do. And if the world can’t see our “product” actually do anything, what are we really trying to sell?

God didn’t fill His Word with the miraculous only to stop once Jesus left the stage. His Word is filled with wonders because He is a God of wonders. We do Him (and ourselves) a great disservice by setting the miraculous aside when it was a miracle that brought us where we are in the first place.

So I will ask again, do you believe?

Read: Deuteronomy 29-30, Mark 16

Come alive

Read: Deuteronomy 5-7, Mark 12:1-27

Have you ever heard an unbeliever say, “Why should I believe in God? What has He ever done for me?” Well, first of all, if you’re questioning what He has or hasn’t done for you, the first question is moot because there must be a measure of belief in someone in order to question their motives. Second, aside from offering a plan of salvation that leads to eternal life, He hasn’t done anything for you. Why should He? He’s not your God.

Before you get all that’s heresy! on me, let me explain.

Mark 12-27.jpg

This was Jesus’ response to the Sadducees question regarding eternal life. It’s like someone who doesn’t believe in God asking why God hasn’t done anything for them. The Sadducees said there was no resurrection. No such thing as eternal life. Yet they put Jesus on the spot with a question about life after death.

So what then did Jesus mean when he said that His Father was the God of the living, not of the dead?

Then he said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:6 (NIV)

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says this:

God implied that the patriarchs were still alive and that He had a continuing relationship with them as their covenant-keeping God, even though they had died long before… He is still the patriarchs’ God which would not be true had they ceased to exist at death, that is, if death ends it all. And His covenant faithfulness implicitly guarantees their bodily resurrection.

Jesus was not talking about physical death, but of spiritual death. No matter how good you think you may be, we are all born spiritually dead, and there is only one way to overcome that death—to be born again.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

John 3:5-6 (NIV)

I cannot make my point better than the character of P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman:

‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking
Thinking that’s your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up to the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

Come Alive, words and music by Justin Paul, Benj Pasek

The dead cannot have the same experience as those who are alive. It’s impossible. There are certain things that God has reserved solely for His children—those made alive in Christ through the rebirth. Anyone who has not accepted salvation through Jesus cannot experience those things—those who remain spiritually dead having either not yet received Christ or having rejected him altogether. Again, it’s impossible.

If you want God to do something for you, you must first do something for Him. Accept Him. Believe in Him. Trust that His Word is true and that all of His promises are guaranteed because of His covenant with His children.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NIV)



Read: Numbers 28-29, Mark 9:1-29

Once upon a time, I wasn’t a believer. You weren’t a believer. And, sometimes, I’m still not a believer. Neither are you. Very few people in this world can claim to go through life with complete and unwavering faith. I am not one of those people. Odds are that you aren’t either. But that’s not the end of the world. Actually, the sooner we all come to that realisation, the sooner we can do something about it.

Mark 9-24.jpg

The man who spoke these words was going through a bit of a tough time.—that’s putting it lightly. For most of his life, his son had been suffering from convulsions caused by an evil spirit. Hearing that Jesus and his disciples were able to cast out demons, the man brought his son to them. Jesus was unavailable at the moment (being deep in conversation with Moses and Elijah) so the disciples gave it a go. They’d been at this for a while now and had experienced great success. But success was not to be found with this case.

Eventually, Jesus returned, rebuked his disciples for their unbelief and told the father that anything was possible if he’d only believe. First he states he believes and then asks Jesus to help his unbelief. Which was it? Did he believe or didn’t he?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I win him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me he can do nothing.

John 5:5 (NIV)

In John, Jesus had a lengthy discussion about vines and branches. Any branch that doesn’t bear fruit gets cut off and burned up. How does a vine stay connected to the branch? How does a branch bear fruit? How can we keep from getting cut off and tossed into the fire?

Since vines don’t have to devote effort and energy to producing strong stems to hold them upright, they use their energy to grow outward. Vines are among the fastest growing landscape plants.

When it comes to training vines, gardeners often do not realize how important it is to direct growth from the time the vine is planted and throughout its life in the garden.

Dan Gill, Training Garden Vines Right the First Time

I had a Bible school teacher say that faith is our grip on God; grace is His grip on us.

Let’s put all of this information together.

  • I do believe. We have all been given a measure of faith. We’ve been grafted into the vine as branches. Since Jesus is the vine, we gain our strength from him. Our energy doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t be) be spent trying to support ourselves.
  • Help me overcome my unbelief. Just because we’ve been given faith and grafted in doesn’t mean that we immediately become amazing, fruit-bearing vines. It takes work. It takes coaxing. It takes training. God, as the vinedresser, prods us and guides us in the direction He wants us to go. He places us where we can be most fruitful and grow the strongest. Taking our strength from the main vine—Jesus—and holding on to the supports that take us higher, we can grow strong and fruitful.

Faith isn’t a mystical power. Some may say it’s a muscle we have to train. I disagree. I believe that a stronger faith is merely the result of a stronger relationship with the Father. Vines don’t worry about where to grow, they simply flourish where they are placed by the vinedresser. When we know and trust in the one who is training us, faith will come easy.

Let me leave you with a story from Charles Spurgeon.

There was once a good woman who was well known among her circle for her simple faith, and her great calmness in the midst of many trials. Another woman, living at a distance, hearing of her, said, “I must go and see that woman, and learn the secret of her holy, happy life.” She went, and accosting the woman, said, “Are you the woman with the great faith?” “No,” replied she, “I am not the woman with the great faith; but I am the woman with a little faith in the great God.”

Give me a sign

Read: Numbers 24-27, Mark 8:11-38

Mark 8-11-12.jpg

It seems a little bit contradictory that Jesus would say this right after performing some of the most spectacular miracles of his ministry. This would be like asking an Olympic gold medalist to repeat their performance to prove they were good enough and have them refuse. The evidence for their athleticism already exists in the form of the gold hanging around their neck. For Jesus, the evidence of the wonders he had done was all around in the form of the thousands of people Jesus had healed, set free, and fed.

By refusing to perform a sign from heaven for the Pharisees on command, does this mean that Jesus didn’t want to do the miraculous anymore? Of course not! He knew that, if the evidence already available to these men wasn’t enough, one more miracle wasn’t going to do the trick.

He who is not convinced of the value of unseen things from a knowledge of the personality and spiritual message of Jesus will be unmoved by the most spectacular miracle.

J. Newton Davies, The Abingdon Commentary

I’m so confused! Do we want miracles or don’t we?

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Mark 16:17-18 (NIV)

These were some of the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before ascending into heaven. I think it’s safe to assume that this message was an important one.

But why are miracles for some people and not for others? Harper’s Bible Dictionary says this:

The miraculous healings and exorcisms, then, were unique personal experiences of the salvation brought by Jesus.

As much as miracles prove the existence of a loving God, they are not for unbelievers, but those who believe. Notice that when Jesus healed someone, he often told them that their faith had made them well. Jesus didn’t heal them to make them believe, he healed them because they believed.

It then begs the question: why isn’t the church as a whole seeing miracles?

Do we really believe?


Read: Numbers 11-13, Mark 5:21-43

Just is a big word. I just need more time. It was just a little. If I could just… A lot of weight can rest on those four letters. Other words associated with it include: nearly, almost, merely, barely, or close. It gives a feeling of reaching. A last effort before giving in to failure.

The latter portion of Mark 5 talks about two people who just.

…because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

Mark 5:28 (NIV)

These words were spoken by a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She’d spent all of her money on doctors and, instead of getting better, only got worse. Her last ditch effort was to just touch Jesus’ clothing.

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 5:36 (NIV)

Just believe? The man’s daughter had been declared dead. What was he supposed to believe? He’d come to Jesus for healing, but to bring his little girl back to life? Already, going to see Jesus would have been his last ditch effort. As a ruler in the synagogue, he would have been a learned man, well-acquainted with the law. He would have known process over promise. Yet here was Jesus very matter-of-factly telling him to just believe.

I think that we too often wait too long to get Jesus’ attention. We believe that we must have all of his attention to get our miracle. Our just is desperate, like the woman. We’re straining and reaching, hoping to get just enough to get by. We have nothing more but that last push. It works, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

But, we have Jesus’ full attention, like the synagogue ruler. Jairus had more of Jesus’ attention than anyone else. It was to his home that Jesus was going to. The just he needed, according to Jesus, was simple. A meh, don’t worry about it, I got this.

You get to pick what you just want to do. Do you just want to reach out and brush the hem, fighting your own battle, pushing against the crowd, crawling toward Jesus? Or to you just want to believe, walking beside Jesus, trusting everything is alright no matter what the facts say?

The good news is, that no matter where you find yourself, both ways work. If you can do nothing more than just touch, that’s okay. Or if you’re in a place where you can just believe, that’s okay, too.

Strength in numbers

Read: Exodus 9-10, Matthew 18:1-20

For some Christians, asking them to pray is akin to letting them know that you’ve booked them in for a five hour dentist appointment. When it comes time to commune with our Father and bring our needs as well as thanks to Him, these people are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they don’t like to pray in front of other people. Maybe they feel their prayers are better said in private. It could be that they don’t even like to pray at all (at which point I would begin to question their claim to salvation). No matter what their reason, these people are missing out. And, not only are they missing out on the benefit of corporate prayer, but they are robbing everyone else of their contribution.

Matthew 18:19-20

If one can put a thousand to flight and two can put ten thousand to flight, how much more could three or four or eighty-nine or three thousand accomplish? One person believing that their presence won’t be missed in prayer is sorely mistaken. Biblically speaking, numbers tend to expand exponentially. When you add one, you add nine thousand. So my question to those who withhold their agreement in prayer is this: why would you want to rob your brothers and sisters in Christ of the strength you can add to their prayers?

Everything Jesus taught was for the benefit of believers, to bring them together, to strengthen them. He didn’t give commands to flex his authority, but gave them for the benefit of all. When he told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, it was for the benefit of all. When he commanded them to go heal people and cast out demons, it was for the benefit of all. When he said that it’s a good idea for two or three to stand in agreement together, it is for the benefit of all.

In the book of Acts, the more people that joined the church, the more people were drawn in. Like a magnet pulling in another then another, soon you have a stack of magnets that is far stronger than one or two on their own. The more we, as the active body of Christ, draw close to, work with, and pray in agreement with one another, the stronger we will be.

I believe that the more we can all come in agreement not only in prayer, but as a church body—a family, the greater our results will be. I think we should all be able to agree that our strength is in our numbers.

He knows

When everything around us seems to be going wrong, sometimes it can be difficult to believe in a good God. Where is He when children are starving? Where is He in the violence? Where is He in the political turmoil?

He’s right where He’s always been. Waiting.

Many people are inclined to believe that a God that would let the world destroy itself is either one that doesn’t care about humanity or one that doesn’t exist at all. But that’s not how this faith thing works. You see, God first loved His creation so much that He let them choose whether or not they would love Him back. He still lets us make that choice.

Picture a person you barely know. Maybe someone you’ve heard something about. Now imagine finding yourself in trouble. You know that person has the ability to help you, but you don’t know them. They don’t know you. Would you expect that person to come to your rescue? When that person doesn’t come to your aid, would you be angry with them? Of course not! So why would anyone make the same demands of God?

God is more than able to help anyone in any situation. He knows your circumstances better than you do, but He is not going to step in uninvited.

The Lord is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

A person who takes refuge is a person who flees a distressing situation and runs toward a place of safety. In order for anyone to take refuge in God, we must go to Him.

God knows your struggles. He knows every difficult situation you have to face. He also knows your joys and your triumphs. He knows you. So, if you ever wonder why you can’t find God in your situation, perhaps it’s time to bring your situation to Him.

Daily Bible reading: Nahum 1-3, Revelation 13