You of little faith

Read: Genesis 46-48, Matthew 14:22-36

Most of us know or have at least heard the account of Jesus walking on the water. He’d had a busy day. Lost his cousin to beheading. Healed a bunch of people. Fed a bunch of people. He needed some time alone. So he sent his disciples ahead of him across the lake in a boat. By evening, the boat was way ahead of him and a storm had blown in. So he does what any sensible person would do and walks to the boat. On the water. Eventually the men in the boat see him and, after deciding that he isn’t a ghost, Peter calls out to Jesus over the sound of the wind and waves.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “Tell me to come to you on the water.”

Matthew 14:28 (NIV)

Jesus does and Peter does. Of the twelve, only one decides it’s worth it to get out of the boat. He does okay for a while, but soon realises where he is, takes into account the storm around him, and begins to sink.

Matthew 14:31

We can have one of two responses to this story:

  1. Discouragement. Peter did exactly what Jesus told him to do—step out of the boat and on to the water—yet he still began to sink. This point of view would likely prevent any one or all of us from ever pursuing the miraculous. If all we’re going to do is fail, why bother, right?
  2. Encouragement. Peter did exactly what Jesus told him to do—step out of the boat and on to the water—and he did! I don’t know if Peter was brave or stupid, but whatever he was, we could use more of that in our Christian circles.

What I find most encouraging about this account is that Jesus told Peter that he had little faith. Most of us would see that as an insult, but I would take it as a compliment. If a little faith is all it took to get out of the boat to stand on the waves, I’ll start with that. Oh, that we would all have the little bit of faith Peter had. His only mistake was to take his eyes off of Jesus.

Jesus hasn’t told me to do anything like that. Oh, but he has!

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:12-14 (NIV)

Every miracle Jesus performed while he walked the earth is an example for us. Through our faith in him, we should be doing what what he did and even greater. Even if your faith is only enough to get you out of the boat, it’s a start. And once you start, don’t take your eyes off of the One who called out.

It’s okay to be of little faith—to begin with. Don’t let one failure stop you from getting out of the boat again and again. Keep your eyes on Jesus and soon, you’ll be living on the water.

Spirit and fire

Read: Genesis 6-8, Matthew 3

Matthew 3:11

There are many in the Church that stay away from any discussion involving the Holy Spirit. For some people, it can be a sticky point of discussion. I’m not one of those people. If we have believed Jesus for salvation, why would we not believe him for the power of the Spirit that he promised to us?

Even John the Baptist knew that the water baptism he offered paled in comparison to what Jesus would bring.

Cleansing with water—water baptism—is an outward symbol of an inward change. But water can only do so much. It can wash the dirt from the outside, but can do very little to cleanse what’s on the inside. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.

The Bible speaks often of the refiner’s fire. Refining is a process in which raw ore dug from the earth is heated to a melting point. The heavy precious metal stays at the bottom while the impurities rise to the top. Once cooled, those impurities can be wiped or knocked off leaving pure precious metal behind.

This is the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

The baptism “with fire” would convey, in its turn, the thought of a power at once destroying evil and purifying good…

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

The Holy Spirit burns away what is evil and purifies what is good. In Acts 2, where we read the account of the 120 in the upper room experiencing tongues of fire, we see Joel’s prophecy fulfilled.

And afterward
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see vision.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28-29 (NIV)

These are those days. God poured out His Spirit on His people in the book of Acts and He never took His Spirit back. So why should we shy away from that which God sent to us to give us power? It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can accomplish what Jesus said we would.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12 (NIV)

As members of the Church, we should all seek and strive to see and do even greater things than Jesus did while he walked the earth. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches if we’re going to see the miraculous like the disciples did. If we want Jesus to come back to earth to take us to heaven, we must first call down heaven to earth. The only way that is possible is with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Servant

Last weekend, we had a work day at the church. The men were lured in under the guise of a breakfast meeting and, after pancakes and sausage, were immediately put to work doing an assortment of tasks around the building. Most of these men are leaders in the church. Our head usher spent much of the morning hauling branches and trees into the back of a truck to be taken to the dump. Our sound man/bass player/greeter was put to work building lockers in the basement. A board member mowed and trimmed the lawn. And our pastor was armed with a chainsaw cutting down the last of the trees damaged in a winter ice storm.

For our church, this is normal. When there’s work to be done, the leadership team is first to arrive—no matter what that work is.

At the end of the day, when everyone was tired, sweating, and hungry again, I was set to leave and someone pointed out that one of my tires was rather low. The pastor was cleaning off his tools with an air compressor. I thought I’d see if he had the right piece so I could put air in my tire. Rather than hand me the piece so I could do it myself (which I was completely prepared to do), he got down on his artificial knees and did it himself.

For me, having my pastor do that extra small task of putting air in my dirty tire, was akin to Jesus getting down on his knees to wash the feet of his disciples.

We often look at the story in John 13 as Jesus humbling himself to bless his followers. He did do that, but that wasn’t all he did. The moment Jesus got down on his knees, he not only blessed, but he empowered his disciples.

In Jesus’ day, the caste system was alive and well. Servants served and lords lorded. Lines were defined and no one dared to cross them. But in order for God’s plan to work, Jesus had to put himself in the lowest position possible. The job of washing the feet of guests went to the lowliest servant in the house.

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. And since I, the Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

John 13:13-17 (NLT)

By taking the position of the lowest servant in the house, Jesus not only showed great humility, but he put his disciples in a position greater than his own. Had Jesus remained sitting and allowed someone else to wash his feet, his followers would have always seen him as Lord and Teacher and never servant. But because they saw him as a servant, they could suddenly see themselves as master. Jesus was preparing them to hear his next words.

The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

John 14:12 (NLT)

A servant could never do greater things than the master. In order for the disciples to do greater things than Jesus, Jesus had to become the servant, and they the master. Jesus not only humbled himself, but he empowered his followers.

When my pastor got down on his knees to put air in my tire, he was following the example Jesus put forth. What would seem to be a menial task that someone of a lower position should be doing showed me that my pastor—a man deserving of great honour and respect—is willing to humble himself and put those who serve under him in a greater position. By emulating Jesus’ humility, he empowers his volunteers to do greater things.

It is great to be a master. But it is better to be a servant.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Will, not can.

CAN: to be possible

WILL: divine determination

Lately, I’ve found my faith being stirred. Whether it’s because of what I experienced on the mission field or conversations with old friends, God is stirring something me and, I believe in the Church as a whole. We, as in the majority of the Western Church, have grown complacent and lazy. Not everyone, but enough that the world has largely forgotten about us. We’ve lost our power. We’ve lost our influence. We’ve lost our drive. We’ve lost our determination.

We’ve lost the difference between can and will.

Before Jesus finished his earthly ministry, he left the disciples with a lot of helpful information. They obviously made great use of it because the Church is still around today. Let’s look at a couple of these tidbits:

I live by the power of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, those who partake of me will live because of me.

John 6:57 (NLT)

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

John 14:12 (NLT)

Let’s set the record straight here. Jesus didn’t say that we can live by the power of the living Father, he said that we will.

Jesus didn’t tell us that we can do the same works [he has] done, he said that we will.

The more I read what Jesus says I will do, the less can becomes an option. Can implies maybe it will happen or maybe it won’t. Will indicates that there is no doubt about it, this is going to happen. Period.

Jesus commanded sickness and death to go. There was no wishy washy little prayer begging God to do something. There was no doubt about Jesus’ own ability or the ability of the Father who sent him. There was no maybe. Jesus never asked the question, “Can I do this?”

It’s time that we stop thinking we can do something and start knowing that we will do something. Even greater works.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 20-22, John 6:45-71

Rules

I have been to and heard of many churches that have rules. Lots of rules: girls must wear skirts to cover their ankles, men must not associate with single women, no one can pierce their ears (or any other body part, for that matter), children can be seen, but must not be heard… The lists can go on and on and on. What I’d like to know is, where in the Bible is all of that?

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5 (ESV)

What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Let me tell you what I think this means.

A lot of Christians think that we still need to follow the letter of the Old Testament law. This just isn’t so. Jesus came to fulfil the law. He replaced it with a new one – love. If you think about it, all of the important things in the Old Testament can be summed up in that one simple word. God knew full well that we, as fallen man, could never keep the law. If we could, redemption wouldn’t have been necessary.

So what are our rules if not the law? Jesus gave us some examples:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6 (NKJV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12

All through the Gospels, Jesus was giving examples of how He wants us to live. These are the new rules and, as I stated before, they are all summed up with that one word. Love.

Being good isn’t good enough. I can throw a football. I can catch a football. But that doesn’t mean that I will ever be the quarterback for the team that wins the Grey Cup. I know a lot of the rules of the game, but not all the rules of the game. I am not qualified to win (or even play) the game.

Being able to do some of the things Jesus commanded is not enough. Knowing the things Jesus commanded us to do is not enough. We have to know the rules and play the game. It’s the only way to win.