Tag Archives: disciples

A+ or F? What is your grade?

If you have not read this story please take time now to open your Bible and read John chapter 9.

john 9 pass the testw2aJohn devotes an entire chapter to the story of the blind man who was given the gift of sight,  but he is not the only character in this story. As Jesus is leaving his time of worship and his humiliation of others who scoff and deride him, the blind beggar may have overheard the incredibly insensitive questions by the disciples about his condition. Yet, Jesus puts aside his own hurt to minister to this one who also has felt the stinging remarks of the disciples. He lovingly explained in his hearing that he was innocent of sin but now God would get the glory for the miracle He would do for this sightless man. He had “passed the test”of faith and Jesus would now prove it.

Mixing mud and then applying it to his eyes might seem rather crude but we are made of dust and to dust we shall return. Why is it any wonder that Jesus would use the very material of which he was made? After obediently following Jesus orders to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, the man awoke to sunshine that he could see, birds in the air that were not just sounds but also visual images of the very freedom he was experiencing. He saw, not just heard, people jostling others as they rushed about in their work. And oh! So much more. As he joyously returned to his home and his neighbors  parents with this great news, he was met not with praises for God’s work but a silent astonishment. Instead of praising God, his parents would later tell the priests; he is of age ask him how he was healed. They all “failed the test.”

The neighbors, the city dwellers, the priests all had opportunity to give God praise. Instead they scoffed and turned him away.

So how did he respond?

Overcome with praise for seeing that which he had only heard, the man goes to the very place of worship where he would not be turned away; the Temple. Even if everyone else has “failed the test” he has not, for once again he hears the Master’s voice.  The Master says you have heard but now you will see Me.  Once again Jesus allows the man to not just hear but now to see him.  Unlike those who saw the miracle but scoffed, he bent in humble adoration, believed and worshiped the One who gave him sight.

When Jesus touches your life do you allow others to scoff and seek to deny your gift of spiritual sight or do you return to the Gift giver and believe and worship?

What will Jesus say about you? Have you passed the test? 



Crisis Response

Matthew 14 worshp jesusa2a

Matthew 14 “The “I AM” – Worship Him”

Herein we have the story of the disciples whom Jesus had compelled to get into the boat and row to the other side. Many theologians have dissected this story and each seem to find a principle that we can use to strengthen our faith but it is the last line of this story that should grab our attention.

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

As a child, I experienced the wind and the waves as I followed a friend into a raging river. Just as the disciples I began to fear and remember somewhat my cry for safety. It was not Jesus who came to rescue me but a collie dog. Looking back I can see God’s hand of lovingkindness reaching out to me and once again protecting me. I am sure you have experienced your own panic times but the lesson before us in the disciple’s response should remind us of what we are to do when the crisis ends.

Do we usher forth a quick thank you God prayer or do we stop and worship Jesus, the “I AM” who created the wind and the waves as the psalmist said “You rule over the proud sea. When its waves surge, you calm them.” Or as Job noted “he alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea;”

Photo Credit: Unsplash: Anton Repponen + Author’s caption


What Will You Do with Jesus?

bold for jesus2aThe high priest of Israel, Caiaphas, had prophesied; “it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”  Yet as Caiaphas prophesied these words he had not known that before him, sat at least one who had become a secret believer. Joseph of Arimathea was a good and righteous man waiting for the kingdom of God and had not consented to the plan of the council to condemn Jesus.

We wonder why Joseph did not stand up and then recall the story of the blind man in John 9 who felt the wrath of the Sanhedrin for challenging their stand against Jesus. His sentence was to be cast out of the synagogue. Perhaps, Joseph was witness to that act and out of fear he was silent.  But, now after Jesus had breathed his last, he “gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.” This Joseph was joined by Nicodemus, The Teacher of Israel who had come to Jesus at night. Together they lovingly anointed his body with spices, wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in the tomb of Joseph.

And where were the disciples who had boldly pronounced their fidelity? They now were the secret believers locked in an upper room. Their false courage was now seen as cowardice.

We all are given opportunities to stand for Jesus. Will we be courageous or silent?


I Wanna Go Too!

luke 8 your storyaAs a parent these words have been heard more often than not when an older sibling gets to go do something but the younger only hears the ‘no.’ Do we think that it is just a parent that has to say ‘no’?

Backing up in Luke 8 we find the threefold description of the heart which has fallen on the fertile soil. According to vs 15 it hears the word, clings to the word, and bears fruit. Again in vs 21 Jesus repeats himself; the faithful ones are those who hear the word of God and do it. And to help the disciples see this in living color he takes them away from Jewish territory into Gentile territory where after a rough night on the sea they drift idly onto the shore only to be met with a demoniac. How does that square with his teaching about heart soils and family?

When all is said and done, the demoniac is healed and the town is left flabbergasted.  What is left but to follow Jesus right?  Instead, as a ‘parent’ Jesus says ‘no.’ Translated; do not follow me. I have greater work for you and it is to go and proclaim what God has done for you. The healed demoniac heard the word of God and now has to cling to it and bear fruit. The same mandate is for us: go and proclaim what God has done in your life.

Storms as Life Lessons

psalm 37 self or god2Yesterday as we were helping a young couple pack and move, their 10 mth old was wrestling with himself on the floor. He wanted to sit up but no one was helping him. He just kept persevering and before he knew it there he was in a sitting position. It was a vivid illustration of how we often strive to achieve something and we seem to be alone in our struggle. God lets us struggle and when we find victory we are filed with joy just as this little was beaming from ear to ear. It is then that God reaches down with his still small voice and says “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

As I have been teaching each Saturday night I noted that the stories that have been chosen for me are all about wind, waves and storms. So as we compared Jonah, the disciples in Matt 8 and Matt 14 we noted how in each case the wind and waves sought to overturn the boats. Jonah’s storm was a storm of correction and his pride led him to this disastrous storm. But, even in we saw the truth that God will take what is bad and use it to accomplish His will and His purpose for good. One of the boys asked why the sailors believed Jonah’s God was the true God and the answer is that it was only when they saw the wind and waves cease that they knew and worshiped the God of Jonah.  How often are we like this. We say we have to see much like the Pharisees wanted a sign from heaven. The same thing happened with the disciples.  God sent them into a storm so that they might know and worship His Son. But, since they did not learn the lesson, Jesus sent them into a second pre-arranged perfect storm. It was only then that they fell upon their faces and worshiped.

Why is that we have to weather storms and sometimes even repeat them? The baby’s striving and Jonah’s struggle  is an illustration of how hard we try to do things on our own. Sometimes God lets us struggle in the storm and sometimes he comes to rescue us. It all depends on where we are in our faith walk. The disciples show us how dull we are to learn the lesson God wants us to learn and so he sends us through another perfect storm.

Oh that we might learn from our struggles and hear the words of praise from our Lord. Oh that we might learn the lesson in the first storm and fall upon our faces and worship him. Where are we? Are we in the perfect storm struggling like the disciples against the wind? Are we like the sailors who struggled so as to not dump Jonah overboard?

Roses or Thorns?

ImageRoses and Thorns; ups and downs; wins and defeats; life at its best and its worst. King David as the leader of Israel faced both wins and challenges both in his kingship and in his personal walk with the Lord God Almighty. His psalms reveal the inner struggles he faced and where he turned when all of life was full of roses and when it was full of thorns. Remember the Transfiguration story in Matthew? It was there that the disciples, Peter, James and John had the privilege of seeing Jesus in all of his glory. It was there on the mountain top they also saw only the grandeur and vista of the heavens and the valleys below were a distant speck. Peter wanted to memorialize the beauty and never leave, but Jesus reminded the disciples that the valley below lay with unfinished work…the thorns like the faithless disciples unable to conquer the demon possessed boy. King David in Psalm 21 has been victorious in battle and his life is full of roses but in Psalm 22 we find life is also filled with thorns—the disappointments, the discouragement, when all of life “stink; when we have our “melt downs.”

Observe a life full of roses from David’s perspective, his mountain top day. O Lord, you give me strength, you deliver me, you have granted me my heart’s desire, and have not refused my request. I have rich blessings beyond number, a house full of children that will carry on my lineage, nations that bow down to me in reverence. All of this is because I have chosen to trust in you and Your faithfulness.

Psalm 22 is a sharp contrast and a day filled with thorns. It is here that David felt abandoned, alone in his  prayer time.  He wrote: I pray but my prayers are full of groaning and tears that do not let up. People, my fickle sons of the kingdom, are insulting me and despising me, taunting me and mocking me, they remind me that I am just a lonely man twisted as a worm. In times when I need their comfort, they instead are coming to me saying where is your God now?

We can relate to David’s days. Life changes, people are fickle and they come in and rearrange our things so that the order of our lives is altered, sometimes even down to the paper clips on our desks. We walk through our day and find our daily discipline challenging and the enemy’s words follow us in our minds from room to room. What is the solution when we have days filled with thorns? Take time and return to the mountain top to see the beauty of the Transfiguration, to see the beauty of the heavens and hear the words of God reminding us softly and tenderly that we need to listen, pay attention to His Son. Do as King David; reorient your day with prayer, meditation and rejoicing in the small victories that make life amongst the thorns bearable. Perhaps you are facing a day of thorns. Stop! Refocus your attention on the roses that are in full bud waiting to be opened.

Remember this:  Roses are teaching that the beauty of life will bloom, once you have taught yourself the lessons given by living with the thorns.”[Deoudis]

Acts 3 “A Divine Interruption or Appointment?”

ImageHow do you handle interruptions when you are late, on your way, ready to go to church or prayer meeting, Bible study? If we all would stop and investigate our responses we would more than often see them as just that; interruptions but not as divine appointments. Peter and John teach us some valuable lessons as they are on their way to prayer.

First, these two disciples were on their way just as they have always done, three times a day. It was their regular walk to the temple at specified times, morning, noon and at 3 pm. They had passed this gate many times and probably took note of the many alms beggars there. But, why this one day did their gaze fall upon this one beggar out of all the rest? Why did they stop and talk to him? Why this day, why not yesterday or why not wait until tomorrow? Why did Jesus only heal the one infirmed man at the Pool of Siloam when there were many there? The answer lies in this: Joh 14:31 “but I am doing just what the Father commanded me,” It was the Father’s will for that man at the pool to be healed “that” day and not another, and it was the Father’s will that this beggar out of all the others be healed on “this day.” Only in eternity can we know the answers to the “why’s.” For now it is that the Father reached down from heaven this one day and chose to place His favor upon this one man.

So when God sends you an “interruption—appointment” remember that it was the Father’s will and His plan. You may just be meeting a beggar in need of redemption, in fact a beggar not even looking for eternal life. But if your faith is strong and you are willing to be used, God will give you the privilege as he gave Peter and John to offer the cup of living water, the bread of consolation and healing in the name of Jesus so that the words spoken by Peter would bear fruit: “And on the basis of faith in Jesus’ name, his very name has made this man – whom you see and know – strong. The faith that is through Jesus has given him this complete health in the presence of you all.”

Are you looking for a divine appointment? It often does not come as roaring thunder to stop us in our tracks but instead the still quiet voice that Elijah heard as he waited in the cave. 1Ki 19:12 After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper.


Forgiveness Heals Two Wounds

ImageI am sure you have met people who report their lack of attendance at the house of God on worship days because “there are hypocrites there.” Welcome to the neighborhood, we are all hypocrites in one shape or other. We offend because we fail to think, we judge because we feel we are superior in our spiritual understanding, we respond with forked tongue more often than not. Jesus remarked that if we are to be found faithful we must be faithful in much as well as trustworthy. We must be honest in all of our relationships and demonstrate to the world God’s way of responding. Jesus had just taught about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had every opportunity to forgive and respond in kindness but he chose not to do so and now Jesus follows up that in chapter 17.

The rich man’s problem was that he chose to offend, he chose to be a stumbling block, and he chose to ignore Lazarus’ need. Jesus begins by saying, yes offenses will come, but WOE to the one that is the cause. And so he bridges from this parable to teach his disciples about kingdom life. He said “watch/guard yourself” in how you respond as the true test of kingdom living is forgiveness even if someone offends or abuses us 7 times in a day and returns to seek forgiveness OR even if they do not accept our forgiveness or respond to it. It was common in that day for the Pharisees to keep a record of offenses—-Jesus says that is not God’s way. Instead look at it this way. You are the servant, the slave in the kingdom. When we offer forgiveness to another we have a choice to respond in one of two ways:

  1. We can say pridefully that it was hard to do but it had to be done. OR
  2. We say as the servant in this story: ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’” In other words, we were obedient as that is the model of God’s forgiveness.  

Now Jesus uses the story of the 10 lepers to teach even more about this principle: we are not only to forgive but also when forgiven we are to thank the forgiver and healer of our soul. Only one leper returned to Jesus to thank him. He was saying to the disciples, you see this leper; that is true kingdom living. He was saying you are the blessed receivers but often fail to thank God for it. The other lepers went on their way healed but they did not return. That is how forgiveness often works. Some are accepting of our gift and others just take it for granted. Also, some choose to keep a record of those times they forgave. You have failed to see that you are to be like the servants “we have done our duty;” obedient to the teaching of Christ. Mat 6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.   Jesus says, no matter the response, it is our attitude and our obedience as servants in the kingdom. It is our duty as God’s servants.

To all of this the disciples respond with this statement: Increase our faith. Jesus said it doesn’t need to be increased; you already have the faith you need, you just need to exercise it, plant it and watch the results.

So the questions before us are many but here are a few: Where are you holding an unforgiving spirit within? Where are you judging without mercy? Where are you like the 9 lepers who have failed to thank God for His forgiveness of your sin?

Who is Jesus—to you?

ImageToday in Luke 5 we will come across the question that is still being asked today. The religious leaders asked: “Who is this man who is uttering blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The religious leaders were really asking who does he think he is; God? Yes that is precisely who he not only thought he was but went on to prove. He proved that he was and is not only the Son of Man but He was and is God in the flesh. He not only had the power to forgive sins but also to heal. He did the harder, forgiving sin, before he did the easier which was to heal so that those who asked and saw might be without excuse. The miracles of healing and forgiving require supernatural power and Jesus proved he had both.

But, back to the question: Who is Jesus? Is he God? Can he forgive sins or is he just uttering blasphemies as they charged? Over and over through the book of Luke we find the same question being asked by the religious leaders, the political leaders, the disciples and even Jesus himself.  

The religious leaders asked: Luke 5:21 Who can forgive sins but God alone? Luke 7:49 “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

The disciples asked: Luke 8:25 “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!”

Even the political leader Herod asked: Luke 9:9 Herod said, “I had John beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”

Even Jesus asked: Luke 9:18 Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and his disciples were nearby, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

And lastly Jesus asked the disciples: Luke 9:20 “But who do you say that I am?”

This is the critical question. Who do you say Jesus is? Is he just a baby in the manger or the one who is born king of the Jews? Have you seen his star when it rose and have come to worship him?  Is He just a good man, a good teacher, a prophet or is He the one who “came to call sinners to repentance?” Is He Your Christ who died for your sin on the cross? Your answer will determine not only your now day to day life but your eternal destiny. Jesus had the answer: “I am THE way, THE truth, THE life, no man cometh to the Father but by me.”

Do you know Him? Have you met Him? And if you have met him have you picked up your stretcher, walked home glorifying God?Image

What Lap Are You On?

ImageWe all know that when the Lord teaches us a lesson and we oft forget it, He sends us around the wilderness, so to speak, to re-learn it. Some of us “get it” and others are still out there wandering like the Pharisees and Sadducees who are blind and leading the blind into the pit. Maybe that is why  they are “sad you see.” They came seeking a sign, but this time they wanted a sign from heaven. It is hardly any different today as I can readily attest as I have spent the last 4 yrs discussing biblical truth with an atheist or a family member who says I will read the Bible when I find the true one. Like the Pharisees, they are seeking a heavenly sign when it is right in front of their noses! Friend, these are traps set by the enemy. Jesus rightly pronounced that it is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks for a heavenly sign.

Moving on, Matthew now gives us a glimpse into the disciples thinking and Jesus irritation with them. Imagine His frustration with them. It is as if Jesus, after listening to their arguing, finally says to them “Hello!! Where have you been? You have such little faith! You saw the miracles and yet you are bickering about bread?” And then came the “aha” moment when the light bulb came on and they “got it.” How often are we like that as well. We hear the truth, we see the truth, but we get caught up in the nitpicky mundane extras rather than seeing the jewel of truth before us. Or how often have we experienced God’s truth only to forget it when we face a similar experience or read and then re-read and then finally it dawns on us what He is saying. No wonder we have to do laps!

It is time now for Jesus to see what is really within the disciples thinking. Who is He to the crowds? Who is he to them? He is asking us the same question. Who am I to you? Am I just a prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah? Am I just a man who was a good teacher as the rich young ruler said? Or am I the Son of God? Peter rightly answered You are the Son of the living God.  Where are you in your thinking? The Father in heaven will reveal Jesus to you if you do not know—just ask. He is who He said He was.

Go and read the entire Matt 16 chapter to get the context.