Monthly Archives: August 2014

Today’s Scripture – August 26, 2014

Mark 8:1-10 (NIV): During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

It was nearly the same situation as happened a few months before, when Jesus challenged His disciple to feed 5000 men, plus women and children in a remote location (Mark 6:30-44).       When the disciples were told, “You give them something to eat” (6:37), they had no idea what to do next. At that time, Jesus patiently demonstrated for them how the Father could multiply five loaves and two small fish to feed the whole crowd.

Now here they were again, in pretty much the same situation: thousands of hungry people, no place to get food, and meager resources – seven loaves and a few small fish. (They should have been encouraged: they had fewer people and comparatively more resources than the last time!) But it was like the previous event had never happened – no flash of understanding, no reaction to the similarity. When Jesus presented them with the opportunity to experience God’s amazing power, all they could see were the impossibilities of the situation:       the hugeness of the crowd, and the smallness of their resources.

Again Jesus patiently went through the same procedure as before. He had the people sit down on the ground. This quieted everyone, and shifted their attention to what Jesus was doing. He gave thanks to His Father for the bread and fish that was available. He broke the bread and fish, and gave them to the disciples to give to the people. And the same thing happened again: God multiplied the available resources so greatly that everyone ate and was satisfied.       And the disciples were able to gather up seven large baskets of leftovers.

These lessons, patiently repeated by Jesus, were important for the disciples to grasp. It would be easy for them to figure that the power to do all of these miracles resided peculiarly in Jesus – that when He wasn’t present, no miracles were possible. But Jesus knew that His time on earth was growing short, and that He would be leaving soon, leaving the work of the kingdom in the hands of these men.       They needed to learn that the power to do these miracles did not reside in Jesus like water in a jar. Instead, it flowed through Jesus from the Father.       And the disciples needed to learn that when they were connected to the Father in vital relationship, the same miracle-working power would be able to flow through them, just as it had when Jesus sent them on their mission journey (Mark 6:7-13).

Father, it is easy to be critical of those disciples for not getting it, but the truth is that we are just as slow to learn this same lesson.       We have no real understanding of the power that can flow through us when we stay in vital relationship with You. Understanding that when Your Holy Spirit lives in us, He communicates to us and through us the presence of the whole Godhead, and that we then have access to the power we need to do whatever You ask of us. Forgive us, Lord, for being slow to learn, slow to believe, and slow to take up the challenge of doing the work of Your kingdom, allowing Your power to flow unimpeded through our lives. Amen.


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Today’s Scripture – August 22, 2014

Mark 7:31-37 (NIV): Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Everywhere Jesus went at this stage of His ministry, there were opportunities to show forth the power of God that was at work in and through Him. He had gained a reputation as a healer with no limitations. Whether it was an illness, or a condition that had been present from birth; whether it was something caused by a germ or by a demon; it didn’t matter. He could instantly provide the needed healing and wholeness.

As soon as they heard that Jesus had come into their area, the family and friends of this man brought him to Jesus to be healed. He couldn’t hear, and he couldn’t speak clearly.

Some people wonder why Jesus went through all of these actions to perform this healing. It seems a little bit theatrical. Couldn’t He have simply spoken a word and healed the man on the spot? The simple, and surprising, answer is not in this case. If that method would have been effective, He would have used it.       The truth is, Jesus never did anything that wasn’t necessary. He never engaged in theatrics in order to “build people’s faith.” He never did things in a way that was designed to impress people.       Quite the opposite, in fact. He always did things exactly the way that they had to be done – no more, no less.

Sometimes Jesus did heal with a word. Sometimes He healed with a touch. And sometimes He used mud smeared on blind eyes. In this case, He used fingers placed in deaf ears and on a bound tongue.       His was never a “one size fits all” approach to healing. He used the appropriate, God-directed method in every case. People are complex creatures, and the things that afflict them stem from many different causes. It makes sense that Jesus would use a different method to cast out a demon than He would to heal a fever. The truth is, He used whatever was the appropriate method for healing whatever disease or infirmity He was presented with in a person.

In this case, the problem were closed ears and a bound tongue. Jesus touched each of these. The spitting symbolized the expelling of what had bound the man’s tongue.       He then gave the command, “Ephphatha!” (“Be opened.”) And the man’s ears were instantly opened so he could hear. His tongue was instantly freed up, so that he could speak clearly.

Jesus’ command not to spread the word about this healing was another attempt to keep the main thing in the forefront. Jesus had not come primarily to heal people. He had come to inaugurate the kingdom of God. The healings were merely a sign that this new economy of the Kingdom was a reality. But, of course, the people were awed by the power that Jesus possessed, by His overwhelming mastery even over such things as deafness and muteness, things that medical science of their day offered no hope for. They really couldn’t resist telling everyone about what they had seen and heard.

Father, forgive us for trying to use a “one size fits all” method in our lives and ministry. To use something this time, a particular way of praying, or of recruiting, or of organizing, or even of healing, because it has been effective in the past. That is relying on ourselves, and on our own wisdom, our own ability to influence the situation. If Jesus Himself needed specific guidance from You as to how to deal with each situation He faced, how much more do we need to turn to You every single time, and never let ourselves get caught up in a particular procedure, or a particular methodology. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 19, 2014

Mark 7:24-30 (NIV): Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Many people are troubled by this episode in Jesus’ ministry – by His seeming callousness toward this needy woman, and by the slap at her inferred by His use of the term “dog.” But, as always, the larger picture must always be kept at the forefront.

Jesus had gone up to the area of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia to have some down-time, to get some space between Himself and the controversies and confrontations that now were a regular occurrence in His ministry in Israel. He should have been able to quietly enter town and just lie low for a few days in this foreign city where He wasn’t very well known, but the word got out.

It was a normal occurrence for people to come to Jesus seeking a miracle for themselves or for someone they loved. But those that came were normally Jewish people – people who knew the Scriptures, who had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah, and who would listen to and understand His teachings. But the woman coming to Him now was none of those things. She wasn’t even a “God-fearer,” a gentile who worshiped the true God.       She was just a gentile woman who wanted a miracle from this man who had a reputation as a wonder-worker.

Jesus was reluctant to do this miracle, not because his heart was hard (it never was, toward anybody), but because of the likely results: a miracle given and received without a heart being brought closer to the kingdom of God, the word spreading, and Him then being swamped by dozens or even hundreds of gentiles who didn’t want God, but only wanted a miracle.

Jesus’ point in His first statement was that He had been sent to those who had been prepared for the gospel – the Jewish people. (Even the Samaritans had been prepared to some extent for the coming of the Messiah by the Jewish Scriptures that they possessed and studied. Cf. John 4:25-26) The time for the gentiles to receive the gospel would come (Acts 1:8), but it was not yet – all of the Jewish people had not yet been told. Since there was a limited time, and many Jewish people to be reached, Jesus couldn’t waste time performing miracles for those who would not be able to appreciate their deeper meaning and believe in Him.

Jesus’ use of the term “dogs” signified that this woman, and most of the people in Tyre and Sidon, were currently outside of God’s kingdom until the time when the gospel would be purposefully extended to them. But it also gave the woman an opportunity to use the same figure of speech herself; to reframe it to her advantage. Rather than accepting the term to show herself as a wild dog, outside of the kingdom, she changed the picture to one of herself as a pet dog, lying under the table, and willingly receiving even the crumbs that fell from those to whom the bread of the gospel rightfully belonged at the time.

This answer showed Jesus the state of the woman’s heart. It was one that was open to receiving Jesus, not just as a miracle worker, but as he truly was: the Deliverer who had come from the true God. So Jesus pronounced her daughter delivered, and from that moment, she was.

Father, things are not always as they seem on the surface, and I have found that we can discover hearts that You have been preparing for Your good news in unexpected places. Help us, like Jesus, to stay true to Your calling, but at the same time, to be open to any of these wonderful surprises that You place along our way. Amen.

— In His Love Pastor Will

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