Hack a hole

Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

Mark 2:2-4 (NLT)

Have you ever thought about what this would have been like to experience? Not only being in the presence of Jesus and being able to see and hear him teach while among the crowd, but to have been in the room while a part of the roof was being removed.

I don’t know about you, but as a basement-dweller, I am very much aware of the noise above me. I know the room was crowded and probably on the noisy side, but you can’t tell me that no one noticed as chunks of clay began to fall from the ceiling. Soon, a hole appeared. Someone definitely would have noticed that. And, once the original hole appeared, hands and faces would have been seen as they hole continued to grow.

Now, if you’re sitting in church and suddenly a hole appears in the roof, I have a difficult time believing that the service would go on as usual. Surely, even if the pastor didn’t stop teaching, someone would send an usher or security team member out to see what was going on and try to put a stop to it. But no one did.

Jesus allowed these men to continue to hack a hole in the roof of Peter’s house. He allowed bits of clay to rain down onto the heads of the people below. He didn’t command that they stop and a path be made clear so that the men could walk into the house. Jesus allowed the entire situation to play out before first forgiving the sick man and then healing him.

One commentary calls these men the eager group of interrupters. When the crowds were too dense to pass through, they didn’t turn around and go home. When they received glares from the men in the room (who, by that time wore a dusting of clay), they didn’t stop digging. These eager interrupters didn’t stop what they were doing until their friend was able to walk from the home on his own steam.

At what point would you have stopped? When the crowds were too much? When the climb to the roof with an invalid was too difficult? When the clay on the roof was too thick? When the men below gave you the look of death for disrupting their meeting? When Peter gasped at the sight of the giant hole in his roof?

These men had more opportunities than most to give up, yet they did not. But I believe the most important part of this encounter is Jesus allowing it all to happen. He could have made the job easier, yet he did not. These four crazy friends worked for their buddy’s healing. Their faith took action and nothing was going to stop them, not even Jesus.

Like the strength a butterfly gains from escaping its cocoon, I believe that there are also times where the easy way is not the best way. Would the man’s healing and forgiveness held as much value if they’d been able to walk right in?

Just because Jesus allows difficulties, doesn’t mean he is no longer willing to come to our aid. Perhaps he is rooting for us to build our own strength and faith first.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 26-27, Mark 2

I am willing

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. I am willing, he said. Be healed!

Mark 1:40-41 (NLT)

I am not a people person. There are days when, if I know I will have to be around more people than normal for an extended period of time, I’ll lock myself away to be alone. I don’t take kindly to interruptions on those days.

Yet Jesus, no matter what day it was—if a close relative or friend died, if he’d already been surrounded by people for days, if he’d been preaching for hours—never turned anyone away. Not only did he not turn anyone away, he willingly healed them.

I am constantly in awe of Jesus’ compassion. It knows no end. We can go to him with anything at any time and he is willing.

He is willing.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 24-25, Mark 1: 23-45

Turn

In the last year or so, Christianity has come under severe attack in the western world. While I don’t make little of those who have given their lives for the Gospel in other countries, in many ways, the attack on Christianity in North America is far worse than in the countries where people die for their faith.

The attack in many eastern countries is overt – Christians know they’re under attack. What makes it worse in North America is that the attack is often coming from within and we don’t even see it.

There is epidemic in the Church of Christians modifying their beliefs because the Truth of the Bible makes them – and others – uncomfortable. We’ve turned Christianity into gourmet coffee and warm, fuzzy feelings.

Jesus didn’t preach comfort. In fact, in Matthew 4:1, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil. We comfortable Christians like to look at temptation itself as a sin. It’s not. It’s a test. It’s a challenge. It’s a place to prove your faith. To believe that walk with God is a walk free of temptation is ignorant as well as fatal to your faith.

Of course we can pray that God will help us to avoid temptation (Matthew 6:13), but if you’re never tempted, you’ll never be tried and never have the opportunity to strengthen your faith.

We embrace sin with the mantra, “I was born this way.” Of course you were! We all were! But that doesn’t mean we have to live that way.

From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from you sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matthew 4:17 (NLT)

How can we, as the Church, help to save a world from sin when we ourselves embrace it?

This year, I’d love to see the Church stand up and speak the Truth and speak it loudly. Like, the disciples when Jesus called them, we need to drop what we’re doing and follow the only One who can lead us from temptation. We need to stop making room for excuses and start preaching the Good News about the Kingdom. Jesus’ example is rather simple – preach the Good News and heal all the sick. Crowds followed.

Turn from you sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 9-11, Matthew 4

Be mad, have faith

It’s that time of year. The time of year when many television stations begin to air one cheesy movie after another. I’m a sucker for them. I’ll watch over again movies I’ve seen every year since I was a kid. They were cheesy then, and they’re even more cheesy now.

In one particular film, a very profound point was made. A woman – who claimed to be an unbeliever – was ranting about her life. Her cheating husband, the parents who abandoned her. She was mad at God for all of it. But then someone (of course the man she’d end up falling in love with and marrying by the end of the move) pointed out to her that you can’t be mad at someone you don’t believe in.

There are a lot of people these days mad for a lot of reasons. And a lot of people asking how God could have allowed all of this to happen. There has to be a measure of belief for that question to even be asked. To me, people who start a question with, “If God really exists…” are looking for a reason to believe. They are searching for faith.

What an opportunity we have as believers to show God to the world.

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

It only takes a little faith to start something big. We’ve all heard about the mustard seed – something tiny can produce something massive in comparison.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Both the Old and New Testaments say the same thing, turn to God, seek Him, He will reward you.

Now is not the time to stand and point fingers. Now is the time to get on your knees and seek the God who wants to reward us. The God who wants to see our lands healed and restored to what they were intended to be – for the United States, one nation under God, for Canada, God having dominion from sea to sea.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be mad at God. At the very least, it means you have the faith needed to draw near to Him. Just don’t stay mad.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 10-12, Hebrews 11:1-19

At once

I love reading the accounts of Jesus’ miracles. He did a lot and I’m sure not everything even made into written records. In fact, Jesus said we’d see even greater things.

I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same things that I do. Those who believe will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12 (NCV)

That’s good stuff, but it will have to wait until next month to take a deeper look at it when it comes up in our daily reading.

What I want to focus on is the response to Jesus’ commands. Miracles didn’t just happen because Jesus was there, they happened because people believed and they were obedient. In John 5, we read the account of a lame man at the pool at Bethesda. He wanted to get into the healing waters, but no one was around to help him. He’d been lame for 38 years.

When you live your life resigned to something for nearly four decades, it’s nearly impossible to imagine life any other way. I would think that many people might argue if someone told them to pick up their things and move along. But that’s exactly what happened.

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

John 5:8-9 (ESV)

I wonder if the man would have still been healed if he refused to get up. He’d been lame most of his life and then some stranger came and tells him to get up. Who did this guy think he was? But he got up anyway. If he’d stayed down, he may have lived another 38 years acting like a lame man when he’d already been healed.

I wonder then, how much we’ve actually been given and don’t even realise it. How much of our lives do we spend too afraid to get up because we’ve always been down? The lame man got up immediately. There was no hesitation.

I wonder if we’d see more of the greater things promised in John 14 if we stopped hesitating.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 9-11; John 5:1-24

Blessed

And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Luke 7:23 (ESV)

It’s nearly impossible these days to not be offended by something. It’s in the news and all over social media. No one is allowed to have their own beliefs any more if they do not fall under the banner of being politically correct. Everyone is offended by everyone else.

My neighbourhood has recently seen a string of vehicle and home break-ins. Not two or three. More like fifty or sixty. The entire neighbourhood is now on watch for a certain few people that have been caught on camera with suspicious actions. The community is on high alert, and rightly so. But it has started getting out of hand.

Photos of random people knocking on doors are being posted and those people are declared thieves – all they did was ring a doorbell. Recently the warnings have transferred from potential thieves and miscreants to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Posts on the community social media page read something like, “JWs up the street caught on camera. Lock your doors and have your baseball bats ready.” People then comment that they’d rather have thieves in the area than JWs. I took offence at that.

When did it become offensive to share something you believe has value?

I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t agree with all of their theology or methods, but I give them credit for their devotion and dedication. A lot of Christians could learn from them in that area.

Jesus made this statement in Luke after he’d healed people of diseases, plagues and evil spirits He’d restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the dead. He shared good news with the poor and people were offended by it.

In a world full of offence, where do you stand? Will you stand up for people who, like Jesus, purpose to do good or will you rally with those who would offer warnings of those same people?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 1-2, Luke 7:1-30

Momentum

And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.

Luke 4:39-40 (ESV)

Jesus never waited for the “right moment” to perform a miracle. He just did it. Whether he was in the mood for it or not. He just did it. When he performed one, word got out, and then he performed many.

When God does something miraculous in our lives or our churches, we need to talk about it. We need to let people know that something amazing has happened. It not only gets the word out that God is still moving today, but it builds our faith and gives us momentum.

When someone is healed in front of your eyes, how much easier will it be to pray believing for the next sick person you come across? When God provides for your needs in an amazing way, is it not easier to believe again right away?

When you encounter a miracle, don’t wait to believe for another. Start right away. Build your faith. Build momentum. Build the Kingdom.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 14-15; Luke 4:33-44

Believe

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”

Mark 4:40-41 (ESV)

This verse has always baffled me. I’m sure that Jesus knew what he was doing when selecting his disciples, but it’s verses like this that make them look less than intelligent.

These are the same men who, up to this point in scripture, would have heard of Jesus’ baptism – and the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved Son.” They witnessed men being set free from demons. They saw Jesus touch people and they were healed. They’d been walking with him and listening to his parables and the explanations thereof. And yet, when Jesus calmed the storm, they were afraid and asked who he was.

With this in mind, I ask a question that has been presenting itself with increasing frequency – do we really believe Jesus is who he says he is and that he can do what he says he can do?

I’d like to say yes, but then where are the signs that Jesus said would follow us if we believe? And if we do happen to see miracles, why are we, like the disciples surprised and afraid?

So I ask again, do we really believe Jesus is who he says he is and that he can do what he says he can do?

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 7, Mark 4:21-41