Tag Archives: power

Today’s Scripture – March 27, 2019

Acts 6:8-11 (NIV)
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)–Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”

As was stated earlier in verses 3 and 5, Stephen was a man full of wisdom, faith, and the Holy Spirit. That was the basis of his being full of God’s grace and power. It was also the basis for his ability to do great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Without God’s wisdom, faith in God’s promises, and the Holy Spirit being freed up to work powerfully in and through a person, that person will remain powerless. But when those things are present in a person’s life, anything and all things are possible.

But where there is great power and great success in ministry there is also the opportunity for great opposition. This had been experienced by Jesus Himself, and He had warned His followers that it was in store for them as well (Mark 13:9 among many others).

The opposition to Stephen came from a group of Jews who called themselves the Synagogue of the Freedmen. They listened to Stephen’s gospel presentations and questioned him about his theology. But they would not accept his teaching that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, or that His disgraceful death was an intentional sacrifice to pay for the sins of all mankind, orchestrated by God Himself.

But no matter how vehemently they argued, Stephen calmly and logically refuted their arguments. No matter how many Scriptures they brought forward to try to destroy his theological points, Stephen simply brought out more, and also showed them that their own Scriptures, read in context, proved that Jesus really was the Messiah.

And, of course, there was the problem of the miracles that Stephen was doing. For all their protestations that they were right, and Stephen was wrong, HE had the power to do miracles, a power that he testified was the result of the Holy Spirit working in his life, while their lives were completely powerless.

In the absence of reasonable and compelling evidence, they decide to spread lies about Stephen in order to take him down. Instead of yielding to the obvious logic of his arguments and the clear evidence of the miracles, the devised a plot to falsely accuse him of blasphemy against Moses and against God.

Father, when sinful men can’t defeat their opponents with logic, time after time their next strategy seems to be to lie. It seems like they so identify with their positions, whether philosophical, theological, or political, that they can’t allow for the mere possibility that they are wrong, and their opponents are right. It would destroy all they stand for and put their whole identity at risk. So, they preserve their identity by resorting to lies, smears, and innuendo designed to destroy the credibility and even the lives of those who oppose them. But Lord, You are not stymied by their vain attempts. Their attacks and persecutions will ultimately be clearly seen for what they are, and their attacks will be turned back on their own heads and used for the ultimate advancement of Your kingdom. This has been proven over and over again, not only in the Scriptures, but throughout the last 2,000 years of world history. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your power for us who love, serve, and follow You. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – March 13, 2019

Acts 5:12-16 (NIV)
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

In a very real sense, the ministries of the Church were simply a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, just expanded to work through more people. The apostles were in the vanguard, doing many signs and wonders, although these things were also being done by other spirit-filled members of the community as well (Acts 6:8).

The Church continued to gather daily in Solomon’s Colonnade, the only location in the city big enough to hold them all. There they spent time together, ate together, worshiped together, and listened to the apostles’ teachings, learning by heart the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus from those who had experienced it first-hand.

The reaction to this group included both a drawing and a repulsion, sometimes manifested in the same people. God was so palpably present in their midst that many people feared getting too close. They remembered the stories from the Old Testament about the dreadful fates of those who got too close to God’s presence with “unclean hands”. And the story of the fate of Ananias and Sapphira seemed to confirm the danger.

But at the same time, there was a tremendous draw to the Church. The Christians had obviously experienced something profound through their faith in Jesus. They were amazingly good people, often with stories of how they had been anything but good before they had come to believe in Him. And God’s power and glory were clearly visible among them when they met.

So, with fear and trembling, people listened from the edges. And, as they listened, they believed what they were hearing about Jesus, who He was and what He did for the people of the world, and they were saved, and transformed, and baptized, and finally brought into the living center of the community.

There were also those who needed a healing or release from the domination of demons, either for themselves or for others. Those who were brave enough or desperate enough came right into the center of the group with their requests and received what they needed. Others were too timid for that, and merely brought their loved ones into the streets in the hope that Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by. And even among these, as timid and fearful of God’s actual presence as they were, were those who received the healing they needed in answer to the small faith that they displayed.

Father, it is encouraging as well as frustrating to see Your presence and power so tangibly present in Your Church at the beginning. Those kingdom people not only did a lot of good in the lives of those who had profound needs, but Your presence and power were such a powerful draw to those who hungered for something profoundly real, and who ultimately found it in Jesus. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost that tangible presence and power. A spark of it flares up in the Church from time to time, but it quickly dies out as the focus shifts to the signs and wonders and away from living in Your kingdom as conduits to bring more in. Lord, bless Your people with Your presence once again. Melt us, mold us, shape us, and fill us with Your presence so that we can truly live as the people of the kingdom, not in a philosophical or theological sense, but tangibly, powerfully, and effectively, to Your glory. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – February 18, 2019

Acts 3:6-8 (NIV)
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

There are several parts to this divine healing that are worthy of note.

First, this healing was done in the name of Jesus. This has nothing to do with saying the words “in Jesus’ name.” It draws on the delegated authority that was conferred on the disciples at the last supper (John 16:23-24). To act in someone’s name means that you are acting as they would act in that same situation, and that you are acting for their interests.

The promise that the disciples would be able to act and make requests in Jesus’ name was made in the context of Jesus’ command to remain in Him (John 15:5-10), to stay in vital communion with Him at all times. The disciples, with the Holy Spirit living in their hearts, were vitally connected to Jesus constantly, and were being instructed by Jesus as to what to do every moment, just as Jesus was continually connected to and instructed by the Father. On this particular day, Jesus told them to heal this man. So, they immediately obeyed, acting in Jesus’ name – at His instruction, and with His authority.

The second thing to note is that this healing event didn’t include any of the things that we normally associate with healing ministry. There was no prayer, no anointing with oil, and no reliance on the faith of the one being healed. It was Jesus’ clearly communicated intention to heal this man – the idea didn’t originate in either the man or the disciples. So, all that was necessary was to pronounce the healing, and then act on its reality.

The final thing to note is that the faith of the apostles in their shared understanding of what they were to do here, how they were to perform the will of Jesus, led them to bold action. There was no doubt, no hesitation, no hedging their bets “in case it didn’t work.” They grabbed the man’s hand and pulled him to his feet, confident that the work was done. And it was.

It is also important to note that there was no hubris here, no assuming on God, no claiming a healing with the understanding that God would reward that “faith”. Instead, there was a vital connection to Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that enabled Him to continually communicate with His followers. There was a command heard by both Peter and John. And finally, there was unhesitating, complete obedience to that command, accompanied by a clear proclamation that it was Jesus Himself who was performing the healing, so that He received all the glory.

Father, this is so different from the way that most healings today are sought. Too many of us don’t keep that vital, continuous connection to You, and if You do speak, we wonder if it is really You, and that hesitation and doubt works against simple obedience, so the miracle doesn’t happen. Without that clear connection, we substitute ceremony, and try to persuade You with prayers that are heavy on formulas, trying to hit on the right combination of words that will unlock the miracle. How much better it would be if we would just stay connected to Jesus, remaining in Him as He commanded, so that we can hear His voice and His commands clearly. And then we can boldly obey and act in His name. Help us to live this out as a day-to-day reality in our own lives, so that we can bring glory to You. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – January 27, 2019

Acts 1:4-8 (NIV)
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus’ focus in His times with His disciples during these final days was very precise, very narrow. These were not merely times of rejoicing over His resurrection, or praising God for what He had done through that resurrection to defeat sin and death. It was all about intense preparation for mission.

Sometimes the disciples got off track, as in their question here, demonstrating that they had not quite gotten rid of their old paradigm of Jesus kicking out the Romans and setting Himself up as the rightful king of Israel. But when they did get off track, Jesus simply cut off that line of questioning and redirected them back onto the correct path.

The correct path consisted of two interconnected focuses. The first was that the disciples were to be witnesses of Jesus, sharing the story of His life, His ministry, and of His death and resurrection, all of which they had been eyewitnesses to. It was this eyewitness testimony that would open people’s hearts to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior (John 1:12-13), leading to eternal life.

But the second focus was crucial. As critical as the need was, as urgent as the work was going to be, they were not to begin immediately. Instead, they were to wait for a few days in Jerusalem until they received the promised gift from the Father, the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit would completely overwhelm them, as a body is overwhelmed by water when it is submerged in baptism. He would cleanse them internally, as metal is cleansed from its impurities when it is plunged into fire. And it would provide them with all the divine power that they would need in order to be witnesses.

This divine power was not going to supply mere fireworks, but was an eminently practical power, the same power that Jesus had during His ministry. It was power to heal, power to cast out demons, and power to do miracles, all as concrete signs that the kingdom of heaven was a present reality. And it included power to hear the leading of God clearly, as well as power to communicate their witness powerfully, even in cases where that required the supernatural ability to speak in other languages (Acts 2:4, 7-12).

And ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and given the green light to begin their job of acting as witnesses immediately, starting in Jerusalem. As Jesus directed here, their mission and God’s leading would ultimately take them all over Judea and Samaria, and then thrust them out all over the known world, drawing people into the kingdom and showing them how to live out their lives as God’s new covenant people.

Father, we still need Your Holy Spirit to baptize us, to overwhelm us, to purify our hearts, and to empower us. Lord, we are far too powerless, far too ineffective at bringing people into Your kingdom. Only Your Spirit can give us what we need. Fill us now and send us out to bring the light of Your kingdom to all those wandering in darkness today. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – November 3, 2018

John 14:12-14 (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.”

The three stunning promises in these three verses are actually three different aspects of one huge promise. Jesus had just mentioned the miracles He had been doing as proof that He and the Father were one. Then He pointed to a powerful additional proof: for those who put their faith in Jesus, an additional demonstration of His oneness with the Father would be the miracles that Jesus Himself would perform through them.

All those disicples had already done many miracles under Jesus’ authority, casting out demons and healing diseases, all as a testimony to the reality of God’s kingdom becoming a reality (Luke 9:1-2). But now, with His re-union with the Father looming on the very near horizon, Jesus was pointing to something even more amazing. All those with faith in Jesus from that point forward would find themselves not just blessed with Jesus’ authority, but with His very presence, enabling them to do all the things that Jesus had been doing, and even greater things than that.

But this was not some kind of magic lamp that Jesus was giving the disicples that would make all their dreams come true (and would corrupt them in the process). In order to act as conduits of Jesus’ presence and power, the things they asked Him to do through them had to be asked for “in His name.”

This phrase does not indicate that we should add those words to the end of a prayer. Instead, it simply means that the key to acting in Jesus’ power was and is to be acting as Jesus’ agent. The power would come to those who move in sync with Jesus throughout their day, who are actively involved in Jesus’ work, and who are asking for exactly what Jesus would ask for in that same exact situation. To ask in Jesus’ name is to act as His proxy – to stand in His footprints before the throne of God. All who do that can expect to receive all the power that Jesus Himself would receive to complete the work that they are performing in His name.

This amazing promise thus has strong limitations on it. Jesus Himself was not given power or authority to serve His own ends, to satisfy His own desires, or to impress others. Because He had given himself 100% to doing the Father’s will, the Father gave Him 100% of the power and authority that He needed to do it, even to the extent of walking on water, casting out legions of demons, and raising the dead. And that same breadth and depth of power and authority to accomplish Jesus’ continuing agenda is solidly promised to all who will seek and do His will 100%, both acting in and asking in His name.

Father, the power and authority that are promised here are nothing short of world-altering. It is easy to see why they are only given to those who are 100% sold out to You and Your agenda, to those who are actively doing Jesus’ work, who have died so completely to themselves and their own agendas that they are in no danger of being corrupted by that power, but are simply given everything they need to complete Jesus’ agenda as it is assigned. Help me, Lord, to be such a clear channel for Your agenda that You are completely free to work through me and to do all that You call me to do through me, every day. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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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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