Monthly Archives: March 2013

Humility at the Feet of God – An Easter Reflection

Reading: Matthew 26:57 – 27:31 (NIV)

Scripture

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:63-64 (NIV)

Observation

It's interesting to reflect on the challenge that the high priest made to Jesus. He said, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” The reply he got was exactly what he wanted. He knew that Jesus was compelled to tell the truth, and he welcomed it, not as truth, but as a succinct unambiguous claim of identity: “Yes,” Jesus said, “it is as you say.”

With this statement, Jesus had nailed himself. But Jesus didn't leave it at that. He added a powerful prophetic statement to leave them in no doubt, and to lay down a warning: “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Anyone there who really was open to the possibility that Jesus might in fact be who he said he was would have cause to swallow hard about what they were planning to do. It was a stark warning, but it fell on hard hearts. The company present would kill Jesus, and his words would come back to haunt them.

There was perhaps one man in that gathering who did have fresh cause to reconsider his opinion of Jesus. Malchus was the servant of the high priest. He had been there when Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives. It was he who had his right ear cut off as impetuous Peter lashed out with his sword. And, it was he who looked up to find that the very one they had come to arrest was reaching out his hand, and touching him, and he was healed. It was a moment he would never forget.

I wonder if in that moment, something softened in his heart? Enough to give him reason to pause, and consider afresh, “Could this man actually be who he says he is?”

Application

Humility before God is the only way for us to know truth. It's being prepared to lose face by stepping away from our old attitudes toward Jesus in order to stand with the very one we had previously mocked. Or shunned. Or perhaps simply ignored. It's being able to come before him with hands empty and heart open to say, “I was wrong. And I need you.”

Prayer

Father God, your approval is what I want more than anything. Ultimately, the opinion of others matters not. Only that you would forgive me, and accept me, and enjoy me. May arrogance be far from me as I thank you, and humbly accept your incredible gift of grace.

 

Faith Isn’t Just Believing – It’s Expecting!

Reading: Luke 8:19-56

Scripture

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:24-25 (NIV)

Observations

“Where is your faith?” [Didn't you know I could do that? You could have too with faith]. Jesus clearly expected his disciples to have faith. He often rebuked them for lack of it. Yet when faith was present, all heaven broke loose! People were healed. Miracles were performed. Hope was kindled where once there was despair.

All through the gospels I see that it was faith that released the power and presence of God. And Jesus makes it exceedingly clear that if I have faith to believe, I too can receive from God! Not only that, if I have faith to believe, I can in Jesus' name do the same things that he did, releasing his power to heal and to save. The very idea would be preposterous but for the fact that Jesus himself said it, and repeated it over and over. The power of God is released by our faith.

“According to your faith will it be done to you.” Matthew 9:29 (NIV)

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)

Application

Faith isn't just believing – it's expecting. There was another storm, presumably later, when Peter climbed right out of his boat, fully expecting to walk on the water, and he did! (For a short while anyway). He acted on the mustard seed of faith that he had, and the power of God was activated.

In the same way, my faith will only grow as I act on it. In the gospels, those who expected Jesus to heal them came to him and were healed. And as the faith of the disciples grew, especially after the coming of the Holy Spirit, they too learned to speak and act on the basis of expectation. Such is Jesus' expectation of me, that I would grow in my faith and act on it, releasing the power of heaven into the world in which I live.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I want more faith! I ask that even at this very moment, you would in your grace impart faith into me. I receive it, and I thank you for it! And now I pray for opportunities to exercise that faith. Jesus, may I not be one of whom you say, “You of little faith”, but rather, one who steps out in faith and expectation, that you might be glorified and others might come to know your wonderful love and grace.

 

The Secret Blessing of Uncertainty

Reading: Acts 16

Scripture

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. Acts 16:6-7 (NIV)

Observations

A good thing is not necessarily the right thing to do. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations, yet the Holy Spirit kept Paul from preaching the Word in the province of Asia, then later blocked his entry into Bithynia to do the same thing. Finally Paul has a vision from God which clarifies where he is to go to preach the Word. All three options were obeying Jesus, but only one of them was the right one.

Why did God not just show Paul and his friends in the first place where they were to go? Was there something he wanted to teach them on the way? Knowing with certainty what is happening next does bring a feeling of security and of being in control. But what if God takes this certainty away? Then, instead of trusting in our circumstances, all we can do is either worry, or trust in him.

I am sure the latter is what God really wants, and is the reason why he sometimes seems to leave us hanging. He is putting us in that place where all we can do is be patient, trust him for the next step, and rest in his hands knowing that he knows the next part of the road even though we don't.

Application

So long as God is in control, I can relax. Then, rather than waiting for my circumstances to give me certainty, I can find certainty in the knowledge that God is good, and he has everything in hand. When options present themselves, I can pray, asking God for wisdom, and then tentatively step forward, trusting God to close some doors and open others. In the meantime, I need to relax and embrace the freedom of not knowing my next step, but knowing that God does.

Prayer

Father, I thank you for this wonderful example to learn from. Help me to let go, and simply rest in your arms. And when it's time to move, please guide me into things that are not just good, but also within your purpose for me. Holy Spirit, open my ears to clearly hear your voice and help me to keep in step with you.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

But those who hope in The Lord…

Reading: Psalm 130

Scripture

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:1-6 (NIV)

Observations

To wait: To remain inactive or in a state of repose until something expected happens; to be available or in readiness; to look forward to eagerly.

When the psalmist talks here about waiting for the Lord, it's clear that no one else will do. No one else can satisfy the cry of his heart. If God doesn't come through for him, he is sunk. There is no plan B. I'm reminded of the lyrics of a Hillsong United song:

So I look to you
So I look to you
No one else will do
No one else will do

Application

It's often when I'm at my lowest that I get to truly appreciate how much I need God. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.” Because when all I delight myself in ceases to satisfy and the things I lean on give way, it's then I see with clarity my absolute need of God. Even those closest to me can't truly satisfy the deepest desires of my heart, but only the One who holds my very soul in his hands.

And yet, God is not 'the god of instant gratification'. He allows me to become hungry so I will come to his table. He allows me to become needy so I will seek provision from his hand. He even allows me to become desperate so my floundering feet will discover that he really is my Rock and upon him I can stand. Otherwise I might put my faith in what cannot deliver and my hope in what is doomed to fail.

But God can deliver, and in him my hope is secure. And so I can rest in that hope, I can “Be still and know that God is God”, and I can say with the psalmist:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Prayer

Father, you are good! I can trust you when my circumstances seem bleak and help isn't forthcoming, because you will never fail me. Help me to rest in your love as I wait for you, and never to lose my hope in you.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

 

“The same works I have done, and even greater works…”

Reading: John 14

Scripture

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…” John 14:12 (NLT)

Observations

Right! The time has come to stop tiptoeing around the tulips, because here, Jesus is making such a clear and radical statement that a response is mandatory. “Anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…”

What works did Jesus do? He healed the sick. He restored sight to blind people. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and the withered hand was made straight. He said, “Stand up and walk!” and people lame from birth began jumping with joy. He set people free from demons. He even raised people from the dead!

So who is Jesus addressing when he makes his statement? Just the twelve disciples sitting in front of him? No, “Anyone who believes in me…” That includes me! Is that really true, that I might pray for the blind and see their sight restored, and for the lame and see their limbs made strong? And even that dead people might be raised to life through my prayers?

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…”. There really can be no other conclusion. He even begins his statement by saying, “I tell you the truth!” It is clear then that with this statement, Jesus is telling me exactly what to expect of myself, and also what he is expecting of me! Jesus is now in heaven and has left us, his church, to continue the work he started – the same work done in the same way, and empowered by the same Spirit. “And, even greater works…”

Application

Long have I stumbled on this verse, believing it in my head and seeing it happening for others but not experiencing it firsthand, except in ways that are more “ordinary”. If I'm honest, those times when I have prayed and not seen healing have sapped my faith and watered down the boldness of my prayers.

Yet faith is rising, and I find myself hungry for the reality of God's kingdom to come to the place where I live. I don't think I can stand any longer to live in that place of spiritual impotence and feebleness, nor to let fear hold me back from stepping out in faith. The time is now here for faith to start bearing its fruit.

Prayer

Thank you Lord Jesus for your great commission, and for the expectation you have for your Church. Lord, we are your Body, and we want to function fully! Let faith rise in each one of us, Lord Jesus, and in us together as your people! May your Spirit move in power amongst us and your kingdom come, that those who are sick will be confronted by the power of your love, and the lost discover a life-changing relationship with you.

This week I took my first steps to being involved in a ministry called “Healing on the Streets”, which is soon to start in our city, God willing, and is already operating elsewhere. This ministry is very public but not “in your face”, and involves putting out a few chairs on the street, along with a “Healing on the Streets” banner, and simply inviting people who would like prayer to sit down and be prayed for. What an opportunity to share the life-changing love of Jesus with others! And so practical. Holy Spirit, let's go! You can read more about this ministry here: healingonthestreets.com

 

Whatsoever the Father is Doing…

Reading: John 14

Scripture

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. John 14:10 (NIV)

Observations

“Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work”. When Jesus walked on this earth, the relationship he had with his Father was in many ways like the relationship that I can now have with the Father. God (by means of the Holy Spirit) is living in me, and doing his work. That includes both his work in me and his work through me.

In John 5:19-20, Jesus reveals how the “through me” part worked for him: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

Application

When praying for others, I often just begin praying without giving thought to what God might have in mind for the situation. I suspect things would go a lot better if first I stopped to focus my thoughts on God. “Lord, what are you wanting to do here? What would you like me to do?” I could do this at the time, and even before hand. “Father, what jobs do you have for me today?” For upcoming events or opportunities, I may even choose to fast and pray as I seek to know God's plans for the situation.

Although I don't always find it easy to hear clearly from God, making the effort to listen and to “see” what my Father is doing will surely help. Then I will be able to say with Jesus, “I can do nothing by myself, but only what I see my Father doing, because whatever the Father does, I do too.”

Prayer

Father God, please open my eyes to see what you are doing. I don't want to work on my own, separated from what you are doing. I belong to you, and I offer myself for your work, to do whatsoever you have in mind – for this moment, for this day, and for the times ahead.

See also, Apart From You, I Shall Do Nothing

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