Saturday, September 27, 2014

Top seven Countdown: #1 Tragedy in Tupelo

This was the most viewed post in our first year. It's a good reminder for us, even now. 


Just a few days ago, a policeman was killed in a neighboring town while making a routine traffic stop. Today, Tupelo had a bank robbery and two police officers were shot point blank. One of those officers has died. This man who had sworn to protect his community gave his life doing that very thing, and a second officer is in critical condition.  It breaks my heart, for we have a policeman of our own in Blue Springs.

I spoke with him briefly last night. He was patrolling and I stopped to chat. We discussed a situation with a newcomer to our town. There is obviously a problem and a need. He was quick to say that he planned to try to clarify exactly what the need is today and see what we can do to meet it. We take care of each other in Blue Springs, and Officer Anderson helps us do it. As we discussed his schedule, he told me his plans for working over the holidays. He is sacrificing prime family time to patrol and assure the safety of our citizens and their homes. Criminals beware. Our policeman is on the job. What horrifies me is the thought that criminals might not care. They might come "heavily armed" into our town and have no regard for this good man. 

What I want to say is, "Don't you dare.  Don't you dare put our fine officer at risk."  Realistically, it's not a demand I can back up. I want to say, "Hurt him and you will have to contend with me," but I would be no good against a heavily armed thug. There is a feeling of helplessness that I don't like, yet I am not helpless. What comes to mind is "My help comes from The Lord."  We are not helpless and the battle against evil, at least for my part, must be fought on our knees. That's where I've been on this tragic December evening... praying for the safety of our police force of one, as well as for those in the northeast Mississippi area. 

It is time for the people of God to tackle this entire issue of evil running rampant in the streets. Take a stand and hit your knees. Fear not. God is still on the throne. 

The Journey, part 7: The Luggage

And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. (Luke 9:2-3 NASB)

I'm not sure how the discussion in the restroom between Sunday School and worship service started, but Ellen Johnston and I were talking with Lucy Hilbun about her remarkable ability to travel light. She has the impressive record of carrying only 13 pounds of luggage for an international trip. My tendency is to plan for every contingency, pack accordingly, then add a little extra. Lucy, however, has "traveling light" down to a fine science. Her remarkable packing abilities are nothing in comparison to the journey of the twelve, though.

When Jesus told the twelve what to pack, it could be summed up in one little word. Nothing. Take nothing. They were not to take a staff, a bag (neither suitcase or lunch bag), bread, money, or change of tunic. It was the ultimate in packing, because there wasn't any. He said to go, and that's what they were to do. Go. He had already done the equipping and what He had provided was all they needed. 

A recent invitation to a wilderness crisis medicine course caused me to seriously evaluate my ability to pick up and go. I have so many responsibilities that my mobility is limited. Don't get me wrong. I love my responsibilities, consider them God-given, and am not eager to divest myself of a single one. It does seem, though, that more mobility would free me to obey a little quicker in matters of going. 

With that said, we would do well to consider the going of these twelve disciples. There was no food in their packs (and there were no packs), no extra clothes, no medical supplies for the job of healing, no cards to register decisions, no literature to hand out. There were none of the things we might consider essential for a medical mission trip. 

All they carried was the power and authority of Jesus with the truth He had already planted in them, and it was enough. Some of these men were successful businessmen-laborers (the fishermen) and some, like Matthew, were wealthy because of their employment.They were accustomed to being comfortable, and having what they needed readily at hand.  The fishermen went to work with an entire fishing boat full of equipment. Suddenly, they were going to work for Jesus with what seemed like nothing. This was an astounding challenge for them, and it cannot have been easy. 

Why would Jesus ask them to travel in this manner? Perhaps what He wanted them to understand was that He was all they needed. Perhaps it is that same reason that causes Him to allow the kind of suffering in our lives that strips us of all we hold dear. We, too, must learn that, when everything is stripped away from us, Jesus is not only enough, our Lord is all we need. 

Are you experiencing a hard and lonely time? Is yours a "stripped down to the basics" journey? These disciples had nothing with them and nothing to fear, nor do you, because what they had was enough. The intimacy with their God had equipped them for whatever they encountered on their journey. It is in the intimacy of relationship with the Most High God that we, too, become equipped for our journey. 

Although not recorded in this passage, there are four little words that make this kind of journey both possible and successful. "Thy will be done."  When the twelve took the first step on their journey, that is exactly what they were saying. If this journey was His will for them, then they were going exactly the way He said, and we should, too. 

When we face one of those dark nights of the soul when all is stripped away, what is there that remains? If what we find is our God and a willingness to obey no matter what, then we have exactly what we need to make the journey all the way through. Bend the knee, bow the head, and cry out to our King. "Not my will, but Thy will be done!" Let the journey begin. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Night with Friends: Forgiveness by Rev. Mike Marecle, D. Min

Our guest blogger tonight is my dear friend Rev. Mike Marecle. He has taught me a great deal about forgiveness and he and his dear wife have been wonderful friends of mine for too many years to count. 
It was April 17, 1987, and I remember the sun shining that morning. For the people who worked at the First Baptist Church in Columbia, Tennessee, I suppose it was just another Thursday. Inside my heart and mind, however, there was nothing but stormy weather. I was desperately seeking peace in my life. I had called the church earlier in the week to set up an appointment with the pastor. I was confused, nervous and I didnt trust people, especially anyone with more education than I had. But somehow I knew this preacher had peace in his life. I had heard him talk about it the previous Sunday when I had attended that service to see if peace was available to me.
After we were seated in his office, I told the preacher, I need peace in my life and I dont care what it takes. I will do anything.He asked a few questions to get to know me better. I explained that I prayed the prayer, had been baptized and joined a church when I was young. Nothing really changed in my life at that time, so I just pretended to be a Christian. I thought that was what everybody else was doing. I continued pretending until I finished high school. Then, in anger I walked away from church. For some reason, I knew I could tell him something I had believed for a long time, but had never said out loud. I dont think God wants a relationship with me. I have messed up every relationship a man can mess up. I am a relationship failure.
The preacher leaned forward and said, I can help you find peace.What a relief! Then he quoted Romans 5:8. God demonstrated His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.Then the preacher put it in terms I could understand. Either God wants a relationship with you or He is a liar, Mike.I replied, I dont know God, but I know He is not a liar.Continuing, he explained that when God created us, He didnt create us with the ability to run our own life. Jeremiah was praying and said, I know, oh Lord, that a mans life is not his own; it is not within man to direct his own steps.(Jeremiah 10:23) I had been trying to run my life for 32 1⁄2 years. It may have looked good on the outside, because we lived in a new house, had great jobs, had new vehicles and I had the nicest Harley Davidson motorcycle in town. On the inside, I was a mess. I was so tired of being angry and running from life. I didnt like being angry, but I didnt know how to not be angry.
I dont know what the preacher prayed that day. I do remember some of what I prayed. God, you have run the world all these years without any trouble. Ive tried to run my life my whole life. Since Ive tried everything else I know to do, if youll have it, Sir, Im just going to give it to you. I ask you to forgive me and I surrender control to you.
I wrote this book to share with you how the Lord gave me peace and purpose in my life through the practice of forgiveness. Having counseled with thousands of people in tens of thousands of hours at Hope Family Ministries, Ive seen a recurring problem: a lack of peace caused by the inability, and refusal, to forgive. Ive been blessed to witness radical improvement in the lives of those who were willing to learn and apply these principles and skills.
Forgive: The Journey Toward Peace, by Rev. Mike Marecle, D.Min Pastoral Counseling, Is now available through

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Journey part 6: gifts and calling.

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:1-2 NASB)

When Jesus sent the disciples out, He gave them two main tasks. They were to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. What did Jesus do before He gave them the two-fold job? He equipped them with power and authority. 

First, Jesus equipped the twelve with power and authority over all the demons, and then He gave them the task of proclaiming the truth of the kingdom of God. Even before Jesus assigned them their job, He gave them all they needed to perform it. This becomes important when we are called by God to a task that seems insurmountable. We can rest with confidence in the fact that our Lord will always equip us to do that to which He has called us. 

He also gave them the power to heal disease and then He gave them the job of healing diseases. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

This is an important principle, and one we would do well to consider in our own lives. Jesus did not give the power and authority to combat demons and heal diseases lightly, nor without purpose. He gave the power with the intention that the twelve would use that power to accomplish the purpose for which it was given. 

We need to understand that the gifts of God are not given lightly, though we sometimes have a tendency to be extravagant with His generosity. One day, we will give an accounting of our stewardship over the gifts He has so freely bestowed. Will we be able to show how we have used those gifts to further the kingdom of God? Oh dear ones, may we take our eyes off the world and fix them on our Savior, making Him the reason for all we do. 

What power and authority has God placed in your hand? For what reason was that power and authority given? Are you fulfilling His purpose in your life?  

Today pray that we would be willing vessels of the gifts God has given us, allowing Him to use those gifts to work through us to change the world.   

Top Seven Countdown #2: Staging an Uprising

Staging an Uprising

Theologian Karl Bart once wrote, "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."  Imagine that!  When we pray, we can begin an uprising, a revolt, against the disorder and the evil of this world.  Isn't that wonderful?  As I look at the twin problems of the persecuted church and the proliferation of terrorist activity in our world, it seems an uprising against the disorder is exactly what we need!

In fact, an uprising is exactly what I am proposing.  Let's start a revolt!  Don't you think that's a great idea? I'm tired of the evil in the world, and ready for a change, aren't you? Let's have nice for awhile!

In order to stage a revolt through prayer, we probably need to take a look at the Biblical instructions about prayer.  After all, what good is a poorly done prayer revolt?  There are many verses in the Bible about praying, but perhaps the best place to start is with the "red letter" verses, looking at what God's Son said on the subject.  

If we want to approach God about something, we need to clear the air with others first.  In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus said that, if we have bitterness and unforgiveness towards someone, we have to deal with those issues FIRST before our sacrifice will be accepted.  If God doesn't even accept our gifts to Him when we have bitterness and unforgiveness towards someone, you can be pretty much assured your prayers are not going to accomplish a revolt either.  Are you angry with someone?  Are you holding a grudge?  Has someone hurt you "too much" to forgive?  Get over it!  That's the only way to be effective in the prayer revolt effort.  I'm not saying that it's easy.  We like to nurse our hurts, however Jesus said it is a must.  

If we want the evil in the world to decrease, we must pray for the evil doers.  Theoretically, that sounds like a good thing.  In reality, this means praying for the meanest person you know, the person who has hurt the ones you love the most, and the most wicked, evil person you've ever heard about.  Those terrorists who masterminded 9/11?  We should be praying for them.  Those terrorists who kidnapped the schoolgirls in Nigeria?  We have to pray for them.  The person who murdered someone you know, the drug dealers who sell to school children?  They should all be subjects of our prayer.  Don't mistake this praying for enemies and persecutors as optional.  It is not.  Jesus commanded it very clearly in Matthew 5:44. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  You can't get any clearer than that. I'm not saying that it's easy, however Jesus said it is essential.  

If we want to change the world through our prayers, we need to want it enough to fast for it.  Jesus expected that we would fast, and he said that very thing in Matthew 6: 17.  "When you fast..."  There is nothing optional about it.  There is also nothing public about it, either. Fasting, according to Jesus, is between us and God.  If you start telling people about your fast, you get all the blessing you will receive from the attention you gather.  If you want to add fuel to a prayer revolt by fasting, you will have to keep it between you and God.  I'm not saying that is easy.  We like to tell about our sacrifices.  Jesus says it has to be that way. 

We can bring change to our world.  We can, that is, if we will.  By loving our enemies, forgiving those who hurt us, praying for the scoundrels and thugs, and fasting secretly, we become ready to do battle through prayer, and when we do, we also prepare for victory.  Dear ones, will you join me?  Let's start an uprising and change the world!

The Journey, part 5: The Scope

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1 NASB)

We saw previously that the scope of the power and authority given to the disciples included "all the demons". Now, we turn to the power and authority given them to heal diseases. The word translated as "diseases" is nosos and literally means disease or sickness of any kind. It is sometimes translated as "injuries".  

We can easily recognize the importance of spiritual healing in dealing with the lies of the enemy, but why is physical healing such a priority?  First of all, Isaiah prophesied that our Lord would bear our grief and sorrows. Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it this way:

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains... (Isaiah 53:4 HCSB)

This concept is so difficult to grasp, yet so vital in times of illness and sorrow. No matter how difficult the physical illness or sorrow, our Lord has first carried that load Himself. When we experience illness of any kind, He who has already carried it will help us shoulder the burden and help us carry the load. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church explains it this way:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB)

The word translated as "temptation" is peirasmos and indicates not only a temptation to sin but any kind of difficult trial, including physical illness. Does this mean that God causes disease? That is not at all what this says. In this world, there is trouble of all kinds, including disease, but God will always make a way for us to persevere through whatever comes our way. 

Coming back to the issue of the disciples and their power and authority over disease, then, we see that, although disease can be incredibly difficult to bear, expensive to treat, and agonizingly hard to endure, it is a burden about which Jesus cares. Our physical ills can be as devastating to our faith as a demonic assault, and equally as limiting to our productivity in the kingdom of God. 

He who came to set the captives free would set us free from the chains of sickness that bind us, and Jesus equipped the disciples to do just that. They were to heal the diseases. The word translated as "heal" is therapeuĊ and indicates not just healing but can also indicate serving. One of the ways the twelve would serve our Lord and those to whom they were sent was by healing their physical illnesses. 

What a beautiful picture of service to God and man! For those who work in the field of health care, that service to man should also be a service to God, as well. For those who are suffering from physical ills, we must remember that our Lord demonstrated His concern for physical illness by equipping and sending the twelve to heal disease. He knows our burden and He will be faithful to help us through. 

Are you struggling with illness? Turn to Jesus to help you in your time of need, for He can help, and He will. 

Pray for the willingness to persevere through whatever we face, and the confidence that our Lord will carry us through. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Top Seven Countdown #4: Tupelo Tornado - Battered but blessed

This was written shortly after the tornado in Tupelo. What happened later was nothing short of miraculous. They were selected by Eight Days of Hope to have a new home built and they are now snug in their lovely new home. 

An elderly lady who has spent a lifetime providing custodial care for her very sweet son had just returned home from a visit to his doctor when the tornado roared through their area. In seconds, it ravaged their home. When the raging stopped, they were imprisoned in their simple house, trapped by the trees that usually provided summertime shade. Not only did their home sustain major damage, but also their older model car, which was flattened by a falling tree. 

Part of the roof was gone but the doors were held tight by the trees. It was not until the next day that this frail woman managed to use a crowbar to pry open a door so they could escape. Surveying the damage, she found that, although she had lost almost all her worldly possessions, there were two rooms that were still somewhat inhabitable. Daylight was visible along one wall, but the roof and other walls were relatively intact. 

With no way to drive for help, all she could do was pray and ask God to send the things they so desperately needed, and that is exactly what He did.  Friends from her church came to check on them. Teams of men helped cut trees, clear debris, and secure a tarp to cover the damaged roof. Church members brought food and fresh water, as well as new clothing. Someone brought dry mattresses. Over the last few days, her electricity has been restored and, though non-potable, they have running water again.  

She has worked hard all her life, and, at more than 80 years old, still manages to provide everything they need. Until now. She has no debt, but her resources are nearly non-existent. Her homeowners insurance was cancelled, she said, because her house is heated by an old space heater. She has no idea what the future holds, but she has anchored her hope in the One who has provided for every need for the better part of a century.  

When asked how they've been doing, both she and her son give the same quick answer. "We are so blessed. You can't believe how good God has been to us!" They are incredibly grateful to have two inhabitable rooms. There is not one complaint about the rooms that are not inhabitable. There is not one complaint about all she has lost. 

Listening to her, I wanted to weep in shame. I, who have so much, have not been grateful enough nor concerned enough about those who have lost so much. I recognize that life's storms, if allowed, will be used to make us stronger, more resilient, more Christlike. I have no doubt that this storm will work such a result in this dear woman's life. Already, she has seen God's hand at work. Teams are being assembled to assess the damage at her home and, if I'm not sadly mistaken, a safer, more secure home will be built to replace the one she has lost. I don't yet know how that will happen, but I plan to see it does. 

The question for those of us who were not affected by recent tornados is what difference will this storm make in my life? In our lives? Will we be more giving, more Christlike, more passionate about being the hands and feet of Christ? Oh dear ones, we must not allow the suffering of our friends and neighbors to be wasted. It can be like a seed planted by streams of water, growing a tree of fruitfulness in our hearts that yields results for years to come. It can be, if we let it. 

Look around you, see the need, and embrace the suffering. Give from your heart, and make a difference for those who are hurting. Don't wait, dear ones, do good now. 

The Journey, part 4: The Scope

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1 NASB)

Previously, we saw that Jesus equipped the twelve with both power and authority (or permission) to act in His name. This verse goes on to delineate the scope of that authority, which extended to "all the demons and to heal diseases". We see immediately that He assigned them responsibility to deal with both spiritual ills, in the form of demons, and physical ills, in the form of disease. 

We turn first to the issue of "all kinds of demons".  The word translated as "demon" is daimonion.  Vine's Expository Dictionary explains that these demons are the spiritual agents at work in idolatry of all kinds and that they act as "seducing spirits" to "disseminate errors" among mankind. The twelve had the job of dealing with these spirits who were actively working to deceive mankind, lead them away from truth, and entice them into believing the lies of the evil one. In essence, then, their job was one of replacing lies with truth. What is truth? Jesus said that He is truth. 

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6 NASB)

Ephesians 6 tells us that, in the matter of spiritual warfare, our only offensive weapon is the "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."  Putting these two passages together, we can clearly see that the only way to combat the lies of the evil one, the deceptive work of demons, is with the truth of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.

As we have seen numerous times in Scripture, when Jesus confronted demons, His truth superseded their lies every time, and it still does. It is the job of demons to whisper lies. It is the job of believers to respond to those lies with truth. The Word of God is our only weapon to stop the onslaught, and is only effective if we actually know its truth. This is the reason Bible study and Scripture memorization are so very important. 

When Jesus sent the twelve with power and authority over demons, He was, at least in part, sending them to confront the lies of the evil one with truth, and to stand firm in that truth. They were to use the Sword of the Spirit to deal decisively with the work of evil forces in the lives of those to whom they ministered. Jesus said, You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:32). The twelve were to go to those in bondage and help them find the freedom that only Christ can bring. 

We have no less responsibility for the truth today. It is still our job to know the truth, proclaim the truth, and stand firm in the truth. It is still our job to speak the truth in love and to help others find the freedom only Christ can bring. Once again, we can only speak truth if we know truth. 

How careful are we about knowing the Word of God? Do we use the Word of God as the standard against which all else is measured or do we seek verses that can be used to confirm whatever we want to believe. Dear ones, in these difficult days in which we find ourselves, it is vital that we know the Truth and live accordingly. It was the job of the twelve and is no less ours today. 

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32 KJV)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Top Seven Countdown #5: Blood Red Moon

This was the first of a three-part series in response to the appearance of a "blood red moon" in the night sky.  There was quite a bit of interest at the time, so I've included the links to the rest of the series in case you are interested.

The blood red moon was not one of my intended topics this week, but several people have asked me about it, so I'm plunging in. 

There are two passages to which reference is made when considering the "blood moon". The first passage is found in Joel 2:31. The second, in Acts 2:20, is actually a quote from the Joel passage. The verse from Joel says, "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." (Joel 2:31 NASB). When you read that, there is a tendency to think "blood moon" equals end of the world. That is certainly understandable, but let's look at the entire book of Joel first before we decide. 

This short book of prophecy contains only three chapters.  Joel opened with a description of a plague of locusts that caused incredible destruction in the land. He indicated that the plague had come in response to the wickedness of the people. He described them as being so consumed with seeking pleasure that they were immune to seeking God's will.  When the crops were destroyed by the locusts, there was nothing to offer as a grain offering, and there were no grapes, thus no wine, for the drink offering. No one seemed to care. He urged the people to mourn the consequences of the plague that had come as a result of their collective sin, but it sounds as if no one did.  

Joel had particularly harsh words for the priests. He said the destruction from the locusts should cause the priests to mourn and weep, lead others to fast and cry out to God, sound an alarm, and return to God with their whole heart. He explained that the consequences of being out of fellowship with God were that we lose our joy and our gladness. They could both quickly be regained by repentant hearts! 

Joel saw such wickedness around him that he warned that the day of The Lord was near. He feared judgement was at hand and that it would be terrible. "Who can endure it?" he asked. Just as always, a hard word of judgement is followed by a promise of hope and mercy.  

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. (Joel 2:12, 13 NASB)

This is one of my favorite passages, and it concludes with words that are so beautiful. If we repent and return to The Lord with hearts broken over our sin, "who knows whether He will not turn... and leave a blessing behind." (Joel 2:14). When we deserve the harshest of judgement, our very gracious, kind God responds to hearts broken by sin with a blessing instead! Joel goes on to describe the bounteous blessings God will pour out on His people. God had sent the locusts to accomplish a specific purpose (repentance) and, when that was accomplished, He promised that He would more than make up for what the locusts had stolen. 

He goes on to describe an outpouring of God's Spirit on all mankind. No one would be left out. Rich, poor, male, female, young, old. All would share in His Spirit. He described signs and wonders that would happen, including astronomical happenings. (Solar eclipse, blood moon). Do not misunderstand this. The blood moon in 2:31 is an interesting sight, but it should point us to the promise in 2:32. "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord Will be delivered..." (Joel 2:32 NASB)

Whoever calls on the name of The Lord will be delivered!  The blood moon pales in comparison, doesn't it?

Chapter 3 is a summary of all the wonderful things God will do, but there are two promises to which we can cling. 
1) Sin (our own or that of others) can never take us so far from God that He cannot restore us and avenge us. ( Joel 3:7)
2) God will protect His own. He WILL protect His people. (Joel. 3:16)

The moon will look red like blood, and we may call it a "blood red moon". Whether it presages the end of the world or not, no one can say. Jesus made it very clear that no one but God the Father knows when that will be. That blood moon, however, had one very definite purpose. It points us to God and reminds that judgement will come, but mercy is still available and with it comes abundant grace as well. Both are ours for the asking. 

Here's the link for part 2 of this series:
and the link for part 3 of this series is here:

The Journey, part 3: the Equipping

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1 NASB)

Before Jesus sent His twelve apostles out on their journey of preaching and healing, he equipped them in an unusual way. If we were equipping a medical mission trip (preaching and healing crusade), we would have trunks full of medical supplies, office supplies to keep records of all the people we would see and treat, Bibles to distribute, personal supplies to make the journey easier. We would pack traveling clothes and preaching clothes, as well as "scrubs" to wear while we were seeing the sick. We would be loaded down. 

When Jesus equipped the twelve, He gave them two things. Only two things. Power and authority. It sounds like a pretty light load, doesn't it? The word translated as "power" is dynamis, and indicates a kind of "power in action" (VED). It is not a brute force, but an ability for miraculous action. Sometimes, this word is used to indicate the miracle itself. For example, "performed many miracles" is sometimes written as "performed many dynamis".  What a wonderful way of describing the action of Jesus in performing a work of power in the lives of those in need! Oh, that we would have a work of power in our lives, fashioned by the hands of God Himself! One of the hymns I learned as a child says, "There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb." It was this "wonder-working power" that Jesus gave the disciples for their journey. 

The second part of their equipment was exousia, translated here as "authority".  When we read that He gave them authority, we tend to think that Jesus put the twelve "in charge" somehow. Perhaps a better understanding of this word would be "permission".  It was Jesus, as the Son of God, who had the authority over demons and illness. He simply gave them permission to act in His name and in His authority. Much as a teacher might give a student permission to go to the office on an errand, Jesus gave the twelve permission to go on a kind of "errand" for Him. 

Power and permission were the only equipment needed to do that which Jesus assigned the twelve.  Without those two tools, they would have been completely ineffective. With them, anything was possible. When God calls us to a task, we can be certain He will also equip us. We may have a meager skill-set and what seems to be an inadequate supply, but if we have the power and permission of God Himself, we have all we need to start the journey of a lifetime. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones would experience that wonder-working power in our own lives and would be equipped by God for those tasks to which He has called us. 
Link to last night's post:

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Top Seven Countdown: # 6 The Nevertheless Obedience

As one of the most-read posts of the past year, this, too, was a surprise to me.  NEVERTHELESS.  It's a word I need to remember when obedience is confusing and difficult.  

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (Luke 5:4, 5 KJV)

We are using the King James Version today so that we can look at Simon's response and the wonderful word NEVERTHELESS. It means "in spite of" and connects Simon's statements in a wonderful way. 

In response to Jesus's command to put out into the deep water and cast his nets, Simon made his doubt about the utility of that effort crystal clear. "I've already fished all night, Jesus. We didn't catch a single fish! I don't see the point."  Maybe what Simon meant was, "I'm the best fisherman on this sea, and if I can't catch fish, they can't be caught. I know more than you about fishing!" What is so interesting is that, although Simon clearly saw it as a low-yield effort, he was willing to obey Jesus. This is where nevertheless comes onto the scene. In spite of his doubt, fatigue, and desire to get finished with the morning's work and back home for a few hours of sleep, Simon would do what Jesus said. He didn't have to understand or agree. He just obeyed. 

I'm left wondering why. Why did Simon agree to put out into the sea when he thought it was pointless. Probably Simon had heard of Jesus and the miracles He could do. Maybe he was curious and wondered. Maybe he didn't want to miss anything special, just in case. Maybe he was offering Jesus a challenge. "Let's see what You can do in these waters."  Nevertheless. In spite of. Simon agreed to do what Jesus said. 

You may be a little like Simon (and me). Maybe you, too, have a litany of reasons why the instructions of that Still Small Voice are a bad idea or would be a wasted effort. Grudging obedience is still obedience, and can be an important first step toward seeing the miraculous intervention of God. Peter's uncertainty was not a problem because of one word. Nevertheless. Nevertheless, Peter would obey. 

The next time you are inclined to doubt that Still Small Voice, tack your doubt to nevertheless. Doubt if you must, but obey anyway. What blessings await! 

The fish were in the deep water, but Simon would not have caught them if not for NEVERTHELESS. What can God do with your "nevertheless obedience"? 

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would have  a willingness to obey that transcends our doubts. Pray for a "nevertheless obedience".  

The Journey, part 2: the twelve

 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1 NASB)

Jesus had been training his twelve closest disciples (or apostles) for months. They were students following their beloved teacher. Jesus, however, was the Redeemer training those who would continue His work once He was gone. He knew it was time for them to put all He had taught them into action, and they were about to have some field work. 

Jesus summoned the twelve in order to commission and equip them. That seems like a pretty routine summons until you realize who was a part of the twelve. Peter, James, and John were His inner circle and they, of course, were there. Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Jesus, was also there. It seems odd sending the betrayer out to do God's work, doesn't it?  What seems even more unexpected is that He entrusted both power and authority over demons and illness to Judas. 

Consider this scenario for a moment.  Judas was called by Jesus to follow Him, and he did. He was not just a follower, but became one of the twelve. He was with Jesus every day, and was treated in the same manner as all the other disciples. When Jesus was bestowing power and authority, Judas received the same power and authority as everyone else in the group. When Jesus sent them out to preach the Good News and perform healings, Judas was sent, just like the others in the twelve, and he went. Along the way, Judas preached and healed the sick, just as Peter, James, and John did. 

Because Judas Iscariot is forever remembered as the betrayer of Jesus, it is easy to forget that he was, at least at the beginning, a close follower of Jesus. We don't often consider Judas as a minister of the gospel, but that is exactly what he was. In fact, he was a kind of "traveling evangelist" for a time. Luke 9:1 makes this clear. Jesus sent the twelve, and Judas was one of the twelve.

Judas did not come to Jesus planning to betray Him. He planned to follow Him. The problem was that Judas had unconfessed sin he never chose to leave behind. He was a thief, and his love for money would one day not only be his undoing, but would send Jesus to the cross. The tragic truth is that, in the sending of the twelve, Jesus gave Judas all the power and authority he needed to break free of the stronghold of sin in his life. His traveling partner had all the power and authority needed to help Judas. He could have been freed of his sin, but he chose bondage instead. 

That sounds terrible, doesn't it? He chose bondage. When we hear that, we instinctively know it was a foolish choice, yet do we not do the same?  Do we not downplay the danger of our own sinful ways? Do we not look at others and console ourselves that we are not as bad as they? Do we not choose to continue with our sin rather than seek the freedom that Christ can bring? Do we not also choose bondage? 

How tragic it is that this disciple was commisioned, equipped, and empowered to make a difference in the lives of those around him, yet failed so miserably when it mattered most! Dear ones, choosing to keep our sin rather than embrace freedom is always a costly decision. We would do well to look closely at our own hearts and invite our Lord to remove every stronghold, replacing them with the freedom only He can bring. Today, let us invite a holy inspection of our hearts, followed by a holy cleansing so that we can not just serve but help others find the freedom in Christ that we have also found. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Journey, part 1: obedience

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6 NASB)

The twelve apostles had been with Jesus for months. They had listened to Him preach, heard Him teach the crowds with simple explanations they could understand, seen Him heal the sick and raise the dead. They had watched Him do what no one else could do, and in their watching, they had begun to believe that this Son of Man was also the Son of God, and that He could do anything. 

They had responded to His simple command, "Follow Me," and all they really expected was to be following. Suddenly, He was changing everything. They were not going to be following. They were going to be leading. Even more unbelievable, they were going to be "proclaiming the kingdom of God", which sounded a lot like preaching, and "performing healing", which sounded insane. It was one thing for Jesus to be healing people. It was another thing entirely for this group of fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots to be healing the sick. They could not envision themselves doing what Jesus said. They could not envision it at all. 

What is truly amazing is that they went. Scripture tells us that "departing, they began going". There is nothing in these verses about their fears or their excuses. There is no whining or complaining. All we see is simple obedience. Jesus said go, and so they went.

How could they do this? The answer is simple. They obeyed Him because they were accustomed to obeying Him. These young men had left everything to follow Him, and that is exactly what they had done. They had walked with Him, talked with Him, eaten with Him, traveled with Him, ministered with Him. Every waking moment had been spent with Him. When He said to do something, they did it. Because they were accustomed to obedience, when Jesus said to make this new journey, they obeyed. Just like they always did. 

Obedience in big things does not come suddenly. It is the result of a series of obedience in smaller things, in simple commands. Could Peter have stepped off his fishing boat to go on an evangelistic, healing journey that first day of discipleship? Of course not. That kind of obedience came as a result of a process of maturity. It took time. 

There is much to learn from this passage, but the first thing to learn is that which the disciples learned. Obedience in the little things precedes obedience in big things. Luke recorded Jesus' words on this subject. 

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much... (Luke 16:10 NASB)

How faithful are we in those "little things"? Do we try to obey all of the commands of Jesus, or pick and choose those which we prefer?  It is in a lifestyle of complete obedience in little things that God prepares us for an opportunity to be faithful in big things. Pray today that we, and our loved ones, would be faithful in all things, both great and small. 
Link to last night's post: