Methodless Man

Jesus performed miracles. Lots of miracles. Most people who do a lot of the same thing over and over again come up with a method for doing just that.

When I worked for the bank, my job title was Workflow Specialist. It was my duty to make our necessary processes run as efficiently as possible. We had methods of doing things. We did the same thing the same way every day so that it was easy to teach, easy to learn, and as easy as possible to do. Fewer mistakes are made when you get into a simple routine.

I don’t think Jesus knew about workflow specialists.

In Luke 7:9, Jesus healed a man’s servant simply because the man believed Jesus could do it. Jesus never even met the man he healed.

In verse 14, he touched the coffin of a dead man and the man was raised to life.

In verse 21, Jesus went all to cure many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits and gave sight to many who were blind.

Jesus was consistent in what he did, but now how he did it. Maybe he got bored with just touching people. A little spit and dust would certainly stir things up. Or maybe, he needed to avoid a particular method so that the Pharisees and other religious fanatics wouldn’t latch on to any particular way of performing a miracle and try to replicate the method.

Admit it. When something works out really well for you one time, you try to replicate the circumstances the next time you go to do it. If it works just as well the second time, you may start to refine your method for even better results.

Jesus didn’t do that. There is no one method we can use to get something from Jesus. That was the whole point. The only common strain that ran through all of Jesus’ miracles was faith. People went to him expecting a miracle. It didn’t matter how it happened, it only mattered that they got it.

If you want something from God, if you need a miracle, there are no surefire steps to take. To the man who wanted his servant healed and believed that if Jesus only said the words, it would happen, Jesus said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel!”

More than any one method, I believe it is the confident faith with which we approach Jesus that will see the greatest results. If God made us a promise in His Word, we can approach Him with all confidence that it will happen!

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)

Read: Judges 1-2, Luke 7:1-30

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

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

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?

Just…

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.

A new hope

Read: Genesis 36-37, Matthew 12:1-21

A look at any news outlet these days will let you know that there are an awful lot of people who have no hope. Even those who think they do, don’t. This is nothing new. Hopelessness has plagued the human race since the very first humans walked the earth. Our own weaknesses and insecurities often overshadow anything or anyone who may be able to shine a little light into our lives.

This is what the Jews were feeling in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Pharisees had interpreted the law to a point that there was absolutely no hope in ever being able to keep it. In the first few verses of Matthew 12, we find Jesus and his disciples accused of breaking the law simply because they were hungry. If the need for a midday meal was enough to break the law, how much more did the Jews struggle in their daily life to keep up with the strict parameters the Pharisees put on them?

Yet Jesus fought against these man-made restrictions. While still keeping the law, he explained the freedom in it. Certain exceptions could be made within the boundaries of the law. Jesus emphasized his point by healing a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees considered healing work and thus, decided it was unlawful to do so on the Sabbath. Jesus, on the other hand established that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).

Matthew 12:21

Jesus’ ministry was not to publicly put the Pharisees in their place, but rather to show the average person that there was hope beyond what they’d been taught. Their faith wasn’t all about the rules, but the freedom that could be found in them. The law was not given to stifle humanity, but to benefit them. And Jesus, in fulfilling the law, came to do the same.

It is in Jesus’ name that our greatest hope is found. It is in his name that demons must flee and sickness must vanish. It is in his name that we are set free and in his name that we find life everlasting.

Where there is no hope, there is Jesus. Where hope has faded, he brings a new hope.

Get out of the way!

I’ve been to a lot of church services. I grew up in the day when we went to church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays, and attended extra services when a guest speaker was in town. We had youth group on Fridays and maybe even a mid-week Bible study. When I say I grew up at church, I mean that I actually spent the majority of my time at the church. Not much has changed.

In all of those church services, I saw a lot of ministry lines, altar calls, hands go up for prayer. But I rarely saw a pastor or speaker interrupt his or her sermon to do so. They weren’t wrong, but in recent studies and conversations, I’ve begun to wonder if they were always right.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

Acts 14:8-10 (NLT)

As far as I can tell, this is the first the crippled man had heard the Good News.  It was Paul and Barnabas’ first trip to the area and they were bringing a new message to the people there. Churches and training centres hadn’t been set up yet. The apostles were setting up the groundwork for future ministry.

Then this crippled man shows up. He hears a message of miracles and salvation and his faith is stirred. What do we do now?

In some churches, he’d be required to spend several weeks in studies on faith and healing before someone may or may not lay hands on him.

In other churches, he’d be told that healing isn’t for today, God made him crippled for a reason.

Yet in other churches, he might have to wait for the end of the message for a call to the altar to be offered and hope that someone could help him to the front before the altar closes to new arrivals.

But what did Paul do? The moment he recognized that this man had faith, he stopped what he was doing and called out to him to stand. He didn’t pause to teach on how healing works. He didn’t have to explain what faith is. He didn’t fall to his knees to petition God with pleading groans so the man could be set free from his affliction. In fact, I haven’t found anywhere in the Gospels where this was the case.

Miracles happened when faith was present and the men of God acted on their recognition of it. Long, flowery prayers not needed. Explanations unnecessary. A simple command was all that was required to activate the faith that was already there.

If God says He’ll do something, it’s up to us to believe and proclaim that He will do it. And when the gift of faith shows up, get out of the way! Shut up and let God show off. This message we preach is not about us. It’s about the God who came to give us abundant life. What we have to say is far less important than what God came to do.

Start looking for faith and then practice acting on it immediately. It may require retraining our minds and our spirits to respond in a different way, but if the result is seeing the crippled walk, the blind seeing, and the sick healed, it’s worth it. Isn’t it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 35-37, Acts 14

By the hand

But Peter said, “I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened.

Acts 3:6-7 (NLT)

How many times have you heard of people praying, yet receiving nothing? How many times have you prayed and received nothing? Some people will keep on praying while others just give up. If God didn’t answer them the first time, why would He answer at all?

But what if all that was missing was a helping hand? What if all your prayer needed was a little extra boost from a friend or someone who cared enough to help you out?

Notice that, in this passage, the man wasn’t healed the instant Peter told him to get up and walk. Nor did the man get up on his own. Peter lifted him up and then strength came to his limbs.

Maybe you’re the one who needs the extra hand or maybe you’re the one who can give the extra hand. Either way, we shouldn’t let a little seemingly unanswered prayer stop us from receiving the things God has promised to us. A little extra help may be required to see it through. Don’t stop praying. Look to the next step. Maybe God is waiting on you to ask for a hand. Maybe God is leading you to lend a hand. Our own pride and selfishness could very well be the things that are preventing us from seeing more miracles.

Let’s not pull each other down, let’s lift each other up so we can all begin to walk, leap and praise God.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 7-8, Acts 3

What did you expect?

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out… And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them… On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for him… So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.

Luke 8:11, 37, 40, 9:6 (NLT)

Isn’t it rather amazing that on one side of the lake, Jesus was feared? He performed one miracle and it terrified the villagers so much, they asked him to leave. It had been an unscheduled stop, so I don’t think that Jesus and his disciples were too put out by the request.

While on the other side of the lake, the villagers had been expecting Jesus. They were waiting. Anticipating. Jesus and his crew were able to travel to the surrounding towns performing miracle after miracle.

What was the difference?

Expectation. Where there was anticipation of Jesus’ arrival, great things were bound to happen. Where he hadn’t been previously announced, he was able to do nothing.

When you go to church, is it just another day? Another thing to check off your schedule? Or do you show up expecting to meet Jesus? Do you arrive in anticipation of what he is able to do?

I tell my teams of church volunteers all the time to come expecting every Sunday. I can’t tell you what you need to expect, only you can decide that. The woman who had been bleeding for more than a decade expected healing when she simply touched something that was touching Jesus. Jairus expected that his daughter would be healed if Jesus could only come home with him. Even the demons who had held a man captive in his own body expected something of Jesus. They all expected and they all received.

If we expect nothing of Jesus, we don’t have the right to be disappointed when nothing happens. Whether you need healing, breakthrough, or simple affirmation, expect it. Never once did Jesus turn someone down when they needed something, but they key is that they all approached him with a request. He never pontificated about how his great power and grace healed, but proclaimed that their own faith made them well.

What do you expect from Jesus today?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 8-9, Luke 8:22-56

12 Years

12 years, if you’re 12, is just a short while. Life is just beginning. You’re just starting to experience real life. But 12 years, if you’re sick, can be an eternity. Every day stretches on and on without relief and, though you’re alive, you never really live at all.

In Mark 5 beginning in verse 21, we are first made aware of a little girl. She’s 12. She’s dying. Before she’s ever had a chance to really live, she’s on death’s door. Her father, Jairus, is convinced that Jesus can solve this problem.

While Jesus and his followers are on their way to see to the little girl, we meet another girl. A woman. She’s been sick for 12 years. Since the time the little girl’s life began, this woman’s has been miserable. She’s suffered at the hands of doctors to no avail. While the little girl’s life was beginning, the woman’s life was literally draining out of her.

But, like Jairus, this woman knew that Jesus was the answer. If only she could get close enough to touch him, her days of suffering would be over.

I believe that, in the moment the woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, the little girl died. One life was restored while the other was destroyed.

When Jesus felt the healing power leave him, he didn’t have to stop. The woman already knew that she’d been healed. I like to think that this was Jesus showing off a little. He made a point, while being crushed by a crowd, to single out the one person who’d touched him with enough faith to draw the power from him.

Side note: When you approach Jesus, do you just bump up against him like the rest of the crowd or do you go after him, like the woman, intent on pursuing him until you get what you need?

The woman presented herself to Jesus and he announces to the crowd—remember, she already knew she was healed—that this woman’s faith has made her well. Jesus made sure that everyone had stopped and was listening. They all heard his announcement that the woman’s faith had made her well.

When Jesus got to the house, he booted out everyone who had no faith. This left himself, the girl’s parents, and three disciples—considering this man went around healing people all the time, the faith of the crowd was weak.

At Jesus’ word, what had died the moment the woman with the issue of blood was healed, was revived. The little girl got up and walked around.

We would understand the gravity of what Jesus accomplished if we didn’t know how long the woman suffered from her illness or how old the little girl was at the time of her first death. So why is 12 so important?

Jesus’ first recorded words were taken when he was 12 years old. There were 12 tribes in Israel, 12 disciples chosen by Jesus. The number is referred to 187 times in the Bible. So what does it mean?

12 is considered a perfect number symbolising God’s authority. It’s a picture of completeness or perfection as well as the authority given to man by God.

Jesus showed the fullness of his authority by healing a woman who’d been living with illness for 12 years and by raising to life a girl who died after only 12 years. He proved to be the God of the living as well as the God of the dead. It was a display of perfect, complete authority. The same authority he gave to us.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 11-13, Mark 5:21-43