Out of the ordinary

 

Do you ever wonder why Jesus performed certain miracles for certain people? I don’t think it was so much that he was selective about whom he did things for, I think he performed miracles for those who went to the trouble of getting his attention.

Once Jesus’ ministry took off, he was in high demand. People followed him everywhere he went. And, let’s face it, if you knew he was going to feed you, you’d probably show up, too. There were always crowds around him. He healed a lot of people. I’m sure the Gospels only list a small portion of what he really did. But the ones that stand out are those who took the extra effort.

In Luke 18, there’s a blind man. He discovers Jesus is nearby.

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Luke 18:38-39 (NIV)

There was no way this man was going to let Jesus go without getting his miracle. And he did. All his hollering got Jesus attention.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

Luke 18:42 (NIV)

This blind man wasn’t the only one to take extra effort in getting Jesus’ attention. Remember those four crazy friends who tore a hole in a roof to lower their paralysed friend down in front of Jesus (Luke 5:19)? What about the sinful woman who came into the Pharisee’s house and dumped a bottle of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:38)? Or the woman with the issue of blood who crawled through a crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Luke 8:44)? Then there were the ten lepers who stood at a distance yelling at Jesus to heal them (Luke 17:13).

It seems to me that those who want something from the Lord, really want something, will do whatever it takes to get it. And here we sit and pray a little prayer once and assume it’s not God’s will if it doesn’t happen immediately. Have we really done all we can to get Heaven’s attention? Have we, like the blind man, called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” until he has no other choice but to acknowledge our cry?

Those who received the most from Jesus are the ones who couldn’t care less what society thought of them. They were the ones who shoved social and cultural norms aside and said to themselves, if Jesus is able to do this, I’m going to make sure he does.

Maybe, just maybe, we don’t see the signs and wonders we want to see because we’re not really asking for them. What have you done lately to capture Jesus’ attention? Have you done anything unusual or out of the ordinary?

Read: 2 Samuel 4-6, Luke 18:18-43

Four crazy friends

It’s been so long that I can’t remember if I actually heard the sermon or not or if I’ve just heard it mentioned so many times. There was a pastor who once said that every Christian needs four crazy friends. Why four? Why do they have to be crazy? Do I really want one friend like that let alone four?

Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

Luke 5:18-19 (NIV)

This is why every Christian needs four crazy friends. The paralytic man was in a bind. He’d heard that Jesus had been going around the countryside healing pretty much everyone who came near him. But there was a problem. He was paralyzed. There was no way he could get to Jesus and it was highly unlikely that Jesus would just show up at his front porch. So when Jesus came near, there was some conspiring amongst friends to get the man to Jesus, no matter what it took.

Now, how many of us would be willing to carry a friend to a crowded meeting? How many of us would try to talk our friend out of going. Maybe we’ll send a text or a shout out on social media. Does Make-A-Wish come out all this way? If we were honest with ourselves, most of us don’t have one, let alone four friends who would go out of their way and make a great effort to get us much-needed aid.

But more than needing four crazy friends, we should also be one of the four crazy friends.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

If you’re willing to be one of the crazy friends, someone who is willing to go beyond the extra mile for a friend, you’ll have a greater chance of having those crazy friends when you need them. Maybe you won’t need a crew of burly guys to lower you through a roof, but you may need someone who will stay up with you all night if a child is sick in the hospital. You may need someone who will take their lunch break to pray with you. You may yet need someone to physically carry you or maybe just to carry you from their knees.

No matter where we are in life, we can’t do it alone. I don’t know about you, but if I have to have people around me, I’d rather they be the crazy kind than the boring kind.

Read: Joshua 19-20, Luke 5:17-39

Snatch

There are times when our focus as the Church can be so outward as we try to seek out and save the lost, that those within our own numbers can be lost. We may not notice that one person who keeps moving further and further to the back of the auditorium, disengaging themselves from the daily life of the church. We cannot assume that, because a person attends church most Sundays, that all is well. It is our responsibility to go out into the world and increase our numbers, but it is also our responsibility to maintain the numbers within our own body. We must be watchful so that our own family members are not lost while still ensuring that we ourselves to do not fall away.

Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins.

Jude 21-23 (NLT)

Like throwing a lifeline to someone who has gone overboard from a ship at sea, the rope is only so long and you can only go so far before you begin to risk your own safety. That is why it is important to remain watchful so that we can rescue people before they drift too far.

It is the reason why relationships within the family of God are so vitally important—no matter how big or small a church is. If a personal has made no personal connections within the local church, they are far more likely to be set adrift and lost. We must be secure in our faith and secure in our place within the local body.

But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit.

Jude 20 (NLT)

If we do not fight to maintain our faith, the battle will be forfeit and we will find ourselves in a place we never planned to be. Jude writes that we must contend for the faith (verse 3). If you find yourself in a place where you are not fighting to keep the faith, you have most likely already drifted away. It takes time and effort to keep faith. Maintaining it takes effort and determination on our part. Anything less and we allow ourselves to be drawn away to places where there are no longer brothers and sisters in the faith ready to snatch us from the flames of judgement.

It’s better to be the one who does the snatching than the one who needs to be snatched.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 1-4, Jude

Carried away

As we humans grow from infancy to adulthood, there is little we can do to stop or alter the process. We get carried away on this journey called maturity. As we age, our bodies mature. All we have to do is ensure that we do what we can to sustain ourselves—proper food, activity, rest, and those things change as we age.

We cannot prevent our bodies from maturing, but why do we stop our spirits from going through the same process?

So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.

Hebrews 6:1 (NLT)

The term go on here is not so much a call to action, but a call to let go.

…the thought [would not be] primarily of personal effort, but of personal surrender to an active influence. The power is working; we have only to yield ourselves to it.

The International Bible Commentary

No one wants to see a 40-year-old man still acting like the high school football jock. It’s embarrassing. So why is it okay when it comes to our Christianity? Why do we allow ourselves to remain in spiritual infancy when we’ve been called to maturity? By continually going over the basics of Christianity, we essentially anchor ourselves to spiritual infancy. We become malnourished because, while we should be growing, we’re only feeding ourselves the bare necessities required to keep us alive.

Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.

Hebrews 5:14 (NLT)

Like giving solid food to a baby for the first time, the experience may not be the easiest, but it must be done if that baby is going to grow into an adult. Little by little, new foods are introduced that help a child grow and mature. Our faith works exactly the same. We’re not expected to go from milk to steak, but we do need to go through the difficult process of introducing new truths from the Word of God if we ever expect ourselves to grow.

We don’t have to make ourselves grow and mature, we just need to be sure we’re doing what we can to properly sustain ourselves through the process.

So, go ahead, let yourself get carried away. Just don’t forget to back your lunch.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 51-52, Hebrews 6

Keep on

How often do you try something before giving up? Once? Twice? Maybe three times? In a society where instant gratification is the norm, there are a rare few who really keep on in earnest pursuit of anything. I am convinced that is why there are so many who claim to have searched for God and found nothing.

If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)

Earnest isn’t a word we use often. We often follow it with Hemingway or Goes to Camp. (I know the spelling is different, but when we all use autocorrect, who really knows the difference anymore?)

EARNEST: Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain having a longing desire; warmly engaged or incited.

That sounds like more than a hey God, are you there? Kind of looking.

What are things you really look for in life? Say you lost your wedding band, how hard would you look for it? Under a few couch cushions and then give up? Or would you turn the house upside down? The truth is, we will make time to look for and pursue the things that are important to us.

While these words Jeremiah penned were from God to the enslaved citizens of Jerusalem, Jesus made some similar remarks to his followers.

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

When Jesus said, keep on, I don’t think he meant try once or twice. I think he meant keep on until you get what you’re looking for. God isn’t out there playing hide and seek with us always trying to evade capture. He wants us to find Him. But He also wants us to put in the effort to do so.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 29-30, Titus 1

These rules

My parents have family rules. Even now that all of us kids are adults, there are still certain parameters and guidelines that we are expected to live by, especially when it comes to our interaction with each other. Anyone else who joins the family—by marriage or by birth—is expected to adapt to the family code of conduct. It’s not always easy and we don’t always like it, but in the end, we’re all still family and we still love each other.

God has adopted us into His family. And, like my parents, He has a set of rules and guidelines that we are expected to follow as members of the family.

God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules, but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NLT)

If I decide that I no longer want to play by my family’s rules, I’m not only being rebellious, but I am telling my parents and the rest of the family that I no longer respect them and cannot be bothered to act in a manner fitting to be part of the clan.

We do the same to God. He has called us to a higher standard of living than the one we lived before we came to Him. He has grand plans for all of us—if we follow His instructions. But if we make the decision to disobey Him, we are not only letting down our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are essentially saying that God is good, but not good enough and that His plans and purposes aren’t worth our effort. We not only reject His rules, but we reject God himself.

So, if we don’t feel like living up to God’s standards, what does that say about how we feel toward salvation? If God isn’t enough, was Jesus’ sacrifice enough? Was his message not worth his time and effort?

My parents haven’t laid out guidelines for the family to be mean or spiteful, they’ve done it so that we can continue to have fruitful relationships with each other. God has done the same. All of the rules He has given us are not to take things away from us, but to prepare us for the great things He has in store for us.

These rules aren’t such a bad thing after all.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 59-61, 1 Thessalonians 4

Not in it

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” The Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was a such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)

How often do we look for God in the storm, the quake, and the fire? He can and has appeared in those things, but He also comes in a gentle whisper. Too often, we get so caught up in watching for the big and loud that we completely miss out on the soft and quiet. On a daily basis, we’re so surrounded by sound we would never hear a whisper unless we were intent on doing so. Yet Elijah heard it—even after the noise of the storm, the quake, and the fire died down. With all that noise ringing in his ears, he would have had to be listening closely to hear the gentle whisper.

It wasn’t just that Elijah was listening for the whisper, he’d put himself in a place to do so. I’ve seen people stumble into church fifteen minutes late, frazzled by the effort it took just to get there, and then walk out in a huff because they didn’t get what they wanted from God.

Prior to the mountain, Elijah was on the run. Jezebel had made a solid threat to end his life, so he, like any other sane man, ran from the crazy lady. He planned to die in the wilderness, but God had other plans and sent an angel to feed him.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.

1 Kings 19:7-8 (NLT)

Elijah’s mountaintop experience didn’t just happen. He wasn’t taking a scenic hike when God just decided to interrupt him. He was there on purpose. It took him forty days and forty nights to get there. We act like God should shower great blessings on us just because we managed to make it to church before the service ended and here, Elijah travelled for forty days and nights on two meals.

It doesn’t take any effort at all on God’s part to reach us no matter where we are, but I firmly believe that He is looking for great effort on our part to reach Him where He is. Our response to Him is often akin to Elijah had he politely declined the food and water the angel brought to him. No thanks, I’d rather die in the wilderness than eat this miraculous food because I know God will ask me to do something I’m probably not willing to put in the effort to do.

After forty days and nights of travelling, Elijah could have given up when God wasn’t in the the storm. He could have started back down the mountain when He wasn’t in the quake (be honest, would you stay on a mountaintop after an earthquake?). He could have seen the glow of the fire from a distance. And he would have missed the whisper entirely.

When we put in the effort we think is required of us to hear from God, our patience can often run thin. We get to where God wants us and then expect Him in the storm and check out because God was not in it. In reality, it is our hearts that are not in it.

In his weariness from the long journey, having almost been swept away by the storm, tossed down the mountain by the quake, and consumed by the fire, I’m sure the only thing Elijah could hear was his heart. Pounding in his ears. But he stayed where he was. Maybe he was frozen in fear and couldn’t move, but when God finally spoke, he was listening.

The next time you’re ready to walk away because you don’t see God in it, check your self. Make sure you are in it. Then wait. Listen closely for the sound of a gentle whisper.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2