Tag Archives: power

Today’s Scripture – August 6, 2018

John 8:51-55 (NIV)
“I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.”

Jesus’ statement that anyone who keeps His word would never see death was not designed to be inflammatory – it was simply a statement of fact, a promise based on solid truth. But some of His hearers were genuinely inflamed by it.

Their argument was that everyone dies, and always had, even the holy men and women and prophets of old. So, Jesus must be either insane or demon-possessed to believe that He had any kind of power over death. It put them on the offensive, demanding to know who Jesus actually claimed to be, so that they could accurately judge whether He was insane or not.

Some believe that this was a tricky spot for Jesus – that if He answered incorrectly, many of those who believed in Him would turn away, and he would lose a lot of credibility with everyone. But Jesus’ stock in trade was the plain truth, uncolored, and unflavored by the slightest spin or nuance. And if people refused to receive the truth, then they were not actually His followers in the first place.

Jesus’ point in His reply is that His claims to be somebody of significance would be absolutely meaningless. Instead, he would simply allow God to glorify Him by what He called Him and empowered Him to do. That was really all the credentials that he needed. Moses, Abraham, and the prophets had indeed all died, but Jesus was doing far greater works than any of them had ever imagined. And it was those works, done in complete obedience to God’s word, that testified about who He truly was.

Father, the works that You performed through Jesus glorified both You and Him. And the works that You perform through us today still glorify both You and Jesus, as well as give solid proof of the truth that we live by and share with everyone we meet. Help us to never seek glory for ourselves as we serve You, but to always point everyone to You, the source of both our salvation and our power. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 11, 2018

John 7:31-32 (NIV)
Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

Jesus’ teachings and miracles were powerful evidence of who He was. The common people could easily see it because they had no skin in the game, like the Pharisees and teachers of the law did. Jesus’ power made their own powerlessness look like complete impotence. Jesus’ clear exposition of the Scriptures, often using charming and memorable stories, communicated so clearly and succinctly about the things of the kingdom that it made the learned lectures of the teachers of the law and their numerous quotations of ancient rabbis look like mere ramblings.

The leaders knew that they were losing power and influence to Jesus. They could clearly see that, if things were allowed to continue down this path, it wouldn’t be long before the people would all be following Him, and they would be reduced to irrelevance.

The reasonable thing to do in this situation would be to become disicples of Jesus themselves, and try to learn what Jesus clearly knew. His power and supernatural abilities were obvious, and His teachings really did have a life to them that their own lacked. Perhaps by following Him instead of trying to undercut Him, they could receive that same kind of power and wisdom themselves.

But the majority of them were completely unwilling to even consider this course of action. It would be a tacit admission that they were wrong. It would mean abandoning the traditions that were such a significant part of their lives, and that had set them apart from less “spiritual people”. And, worst of all, it would mean accepting the fact that an “uneducated” carpenter from the sticks had somehow gotten hold of the deep truths of God, while they, with their years of careful study and devotion to tradition, had inexplicably missed the boat.

All of that was inconceivable to them, so they went another way. They determined that the best way to keep Jesus from making them look bad was to take Him out of the way, arrest Him, and either convict Him, or besmirch His reputation so badly through accusation and innuendo that He would lose influence with the people. So, the sent the temple guards to arrest Him, ostensibly for causing a public disturbance on the temple grounds where He was teaching.

Father, I can see this same dynamic working in our society today – not in the arena of the church so much, but in the arena of politics. Neither side is willing to give an inch, or to admit that the other side may have a point or a plan that will work. If it is not 100% their plan, their way, their philosophy, then it must be completely rejected, impugned, and even destroyed. And so, many of the leaders continue to demonize, obfuscate, twist the truth, and attack even good ideas to satisfy their base and to protect their own turf. If only our leaders would learn the lesson of history, even Scriptural history, that those who set themselves steadfastly against the truth, and ultimately against You and Your ways, are destroyed and scattered. Help us, Lord to be healed from our nearsightedness as a nation that so quickly and thoroughly divides us, and to be unified. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 24, 2018

Luke 22:28-30 (NIV) “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

The disciples, even at this late hour, were still consumed by self-interest and self-promotion, trying to get ahead by dint of their own efforts. But, again, that is not the way of the kingdom of God.

Instead, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of grace and favor. No one will ever be allowed to seize or usurp power by force or might, because in God’s kingdom God alone is king. But He also delegates power, authority, and recognition to those who humbly submit themselves to His authority.

It is on the basis of that reality that Jesus could declare to His followers that they didn’t have to struggle and grapple with each other over the edges of the kingdom. Instead, as those who had stuck with Him through thick and thin, the power and authority of God’s kingdom was going to be graciously bestowed on them, not on the basis of merit or might, but on the basis of God’s grace.

This authority and power was symbolized by Jesus in His picture of the disciples eating at His table. That shows that the kingdom that they were to be given would not be their own, but would be a derivative kingdom. In a sense, they would serve as satraps, with authority to judge (not simply in the sense of a trial, but in the sense of ruling and leading, like the judges of ancient Israel), but ultimately subservient to the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, Jesus Himself. Jesus, as the supreme ruler of God’s kingdom, retained authority to empower anyone He chose, and He was letting them know that they could relax about their future, because He was choosing them.

It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, that they were finally able to understand what Jesus was telling them here. And it was only as they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit that they were able to successfully fulfill the roles that Jesus had called them to.

Father, this picture of authority and power was not just for those initial followers, but, through their ministry, it is for all of those who surrender to You, all who are filled by Your Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). But we always must remember that our authority, and any power that we have, is not ours, but is derived through our relationship with Jesus, and therefore must be used to bear witness to Him, and to glorify His name. Help us to live out these realities today and every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 2, 2017

Luke 11:21-22 (NIV) “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.”

Jesus continues to teach those who accused Him of being able to cast out demons only because He Himself was possessed by the king of the demons. Jesus had already challenged that idea successfully, effectively showing where His ability did not come from. Now He moves on to show how He was able to do what He did.

The key point in this paragraph is that, even though satan is strong and has the ability to lock a person up in sin and bondage, and even to possess them and take their freedom and autonomy away, Jesus is stronger than satan. He is, in fact, strong enough to attack satan where he lives, to overpower him, and to take away every defense in which he trusts. Then He is able to take away his spoils, the people that he had taken captive.

This is key for Christians, as much now as at any time in the past. Today, thanks in large part to poplar novels, movies, and television shows, most people, even many Christians, see satan as an unbeatable foe that must be feared. Borrowing from Gnosticism and Greek philosophy, many Christians see satan as the opposing force of evil to God’s goodness, and equal to God in strength, but in the opposite direction. They see him as a fearsome enemy that, if he can be defeated at all, can only be beaten with great expenditure of power, and likely great loss.

But the reality is that satan is a created being, as far below God and His power as an ant is below human beings. Even though an ant is amazingly strong, and can lift many times its own body weight, it is so small that, when attacked by a human being, it has no adequate defenses, but ends up squashed on the pavement. Jesus never had any problems defeating satan and withstanding his temptations in the wilderness. Instead, He said no to every one of them, and when He commanded satan to leave Him alone, satan had no choice but to slink away without a word. And Jesus had the same authority and power over demons as over satan himself. Even when He approached the man possessed by a whole legion of demons (Luke 8:27ff), the demons didn’t fight against Him, but fell immediately to begging for their very existence before He cast them out into a nearby herd of pigs.

A corollary of this fact of Jesus’ superiority to satan is that anyone in whom Jesus lives is also more powerful than satan, and never has to run from him or his forces, no matter how many, no matter how fiercely they roar. Neither Peter nor Paul ever fought against demons; they simply commanded them to go, and they left without a word. And that same authority is available today to all of those who belong to Jesus.

Father, our thinking in this area really has been tainted by movies and television shows, making us fearful, and driving the truth of these verses out of our minds and hearts. Help us to think in kingdom ways about these things, too. Help me to be a strong warrior whenever I have to stand against temptations, against demons, against evil in any of its forms. Help me to trust not in my own strength, but in the truth that the one who is in me, Jesus, is far greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 26, 2017

Luke 11:4 (NIV) “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”

The last two petitions of the form-prayer that Jesus taught His disciples deal with the spiritual dimension.

The first spiritual issue is forgiveness. Everyone in the world needs forgiveness, a forgiveness that became available with the coming of Jesus in a way that was never available before.. Before Jesus, forgiveness required the sacrifice of a spotless animal for every sin committed. But after Jesus’ death and resurrection forgiveness simply required confession (1 John 1:9), genuine repentance (Acts 2:28), and asking (Luke 11:4). The sacrifice has already been made.

I say simply, but for some this is genuinely complicated. Repentance is more than simply saying “I’m sorry.” True repentance requires a change of mind with regard to the sinful actions and attitudes, and a change of direction away from the sins. And that can be very difficult, impossible even, unless the will is there to make those changes.

And notice that Jesus included a condition in this petition. He instructed His disciples to pray for forgiveness of their sins on the basis of their having already forgiven everyone who had sinned against them. Matthew’s version, especially the explanation that He gave following the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15) provides additional clarification. Jesus taught there that without our actually forgiving others, we cannot be granted forgiveness for our own sins.

The final petition is for God’s help in avoiding temptation. The enemy is continually looking for opportunities to lead God’s people astray. But God can help us to overcome the enemy if only we will ask. Just as Jesus did not ever get ensnared by the enemy’s  temptations, so we, His followers, can have victory over every test as we walk in God’s grace.

Father, we do need Your forgiveness for sins committed, and Your grace and power to resist sins in the future. Thank You for making them both so freely available to us, just for the asking. Help me to never block my own forgiveness by withholding my forgiveness from anyone else. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 9, 2017

Luke 10:21 (NIV) At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

The seventy-two disciples Jesus had sent out had been successful in their mission. God’s power and authority had flowed through them freely, and disease and evil spirits had fled. To Jesus, this felt like a ray of bright light after many discouraging episodes, and it caused Him to break into spontaneous prayers of praise.

The wise and learned that Jesus referred to in His prayer were the high priests, the leaders of the people, and the teachers of the law. All of these were admired at the time as people of great wisdom and insight, whose lives were dedicated to following every one of God’s commands in excruciating detail. But in all of their wisdom, in all of their studying, in all of their supposed spiritual maturity, they had no relationship with God, demonstrated by their complete lack of power and spiritual authority. None of them was able to cast out a demon, heal a disease, or do any other miracle, large or small.

Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, considered spiritually immature by these same elders and leaders, had great spiritual power and spiritual authority, given to them by Jesus Himself. That power and authority, and the miracles that they were able to do, were a clear sign that these men were in relationship with God, albeit a relationship moderated by Jesus at that stage of the game.

God longed to have that same kind of relationship with all of His people, the elders and leaders included, to be able to instill in all of them the same spiritual power and authority that the disciples of Jesus showed. But the elders and leaders were so confident of their standing with God by virtue of their position and their knowledge of the Scriptures, that they were completely unwilling to receive God’s Messiah, Jesus, when he came to them. Rather than see His power and miraculous abilities as a sign of His superior spiritual maturity and of His strong relationship with God, they wrote Him off as an uneducated rube, and His miraculous abilities as signs that He was in league with the devil!

So the simple truths that Jesus was teaching, truths about the here-and-now reality of the kingdom of God, and about the ability of ALL of God’s people to have a new kind of relationship with God through the work of Jesus was hidden from them, and revealed freely to those who simply accepted Jesus and His teachings at face value.

Father, thank You for not putting either the truths of Your kingdom or access to your power and authority on a top shelf somewhere, out of the reach of all but scholars and theologians. Thank You for revealing them clearly to simple, regular people, to spiritual children, like me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 8, 2017

Luke 10:17-20 (NIV) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

When the seventy-two returned to Jesus after their mission trip, they were full of news. Each one wanted to tell Him about all that they had accomplished. They all had been given authority over evil spirits, just like Jesus had told them. But it is one thing to be told that you will be able to cast out a demon, and a totally different thing to actually find that you are able to do it!

Jesus was pleased that they had been faithful, including bravely standing up to demons, and He told them that He, too, had seen demons fall, even Satan himself. But even though they had been given that authority, even though they no longer had to fear attacks from evil spirits (symbolized here as snakes and scorpions) because of that authority, they needed to make sure that they didn’t get so distracted by sharing and comparing stories with each other that they missed the main point: none of this would be possible if it were not for the overarching truth that their names were written in heaven.

No mere human being can stand up to a demon in his or her own strength. That kind of authority has to come from God, and that authority will only be given to those who have received Jesus, and whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 20:12-15). But if a person has been given that authority, we no longer have to be afraid of evil spirits, or even of Satan himself. Those evil beings no longer have any authority over our lives, and must flee whenever one of God’s people tell them to. There was never a battle, never a struggle when Jesus encountered a demon. When He said to leave, they left immediately. Even Satan had to leave immediately when Jesus commanded Him to go (Matthew 4:10-11). The same was true of the apostles: no battle, no struggle, just instant compliance by the demons. And the same can be true of us, too.

Father, outside of a few circles, very few of us have really been taught that we have that kind of authority and protection from You. But the promise and the evidence is all through Your word. Help me to walk in this truth today, secure in the knowledge that my name is written in heaven, and then confident of being able to walk in Your authority over all kinds of evil. Amen.

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