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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Mysteries of Living our Christian Life


The Mysteries of Living our Christian Life

When the disciples asked Jesus why He taught many of his lessons by telling stories or parables, He answered with these words: “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matthew 13:11) Jesus admitted that He taught with parables to make his lessons clearer to some but also to hide the meanings of his lessons from others!  Is Jesus saying that God shows the mystery of kingdom of heaven to some people and doesn’t give that knowledge to others?  Doesn’t the Bible say that God wants everyone to know Him?  (2 Peter 3:9)

 Jesus went on to say: “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance: but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore, I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”  (Matthew 13:12-13)

Jesus stopped and quoted the prophet Isaiah as saying that the people in Jesus’ day who would hear Him would have hearts that had grown dull and eyes that would be closed and ears that would be hard of hearing.  If these people could only see with their eyes and hear with their ears, then they could understand with their hearts.  And then they would want to turn and let Jesus heal them. 

Again, why is God hiding salvation from some people and not others?  Couldn’t God just open a person’s spiritual eyes and ears so that they could see and hear and believe?  Bible scholars believe that Jesus was telling his disciples that His parables would make the things of God easy to understand for anyone who was willing to be taught – whose eyes were straining to see and whose ears were open to hear.  But at the same time Jesus’ parables would hide God’s truths from those who weren’t interested or who didn’t care – those who did not want to see with their spiritual eyes or hear with their spiritual ears. Spiritual things bored these folks and they had other interests.  It would seem that God isn’t interested in forcing people into the kingdom of heaven who aren’t interested or who don’t want to try to obey His laws. 

It seems one of the mysteries of our Christian walk is that if we want to understand God’s truths, our eyes will be opened to see them and our ears will be able to hear. But if we don’t care about His mysteries then we won’t see or hear them at all.  It’s up to us!  We get what we want! “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) God gives His gifts to those who want them and who improve them, but He takes his gifts away from those who bury them.  (The Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30) 

When we live out our Christian life, Scripture says that we are living it in another kingdom – the kingdom of heaven.  And some people are worldly and do not want to live in the kingdom of heaven.  These people will not understand Christ or His parables because they don’t want to understand Christ or His parables. 

Jesus explains this mystery of the Door of Salvation opening or closing according to a person’s wants and desires by telling another story or parable. (Matthew 13:18-23) Jesus’ story begins with a Farmer planting seeds.  The Farmer spreads some of the seeds on roads where there is heavy traffic.  The seeds cannot sink into the ground since it is so hard so the wicked one comes and snatches the seed away. The farmer plants more seeds on stony ground.  The seed tries to grow but the root doesn’t develop surrounded by rocks and when the storms (troubles) come, the plant dies. More seed is planted in ground where there are thorny bushes.  The thorns are the cares of this world and the love of money and they choke out the seed so the plant withers and dies.  And then finally the farmer plants more seed on good ground with fertile soil and the seed takes root and grows and bears good fruit.  Some plants produce a hundred fold, some sixty and some thirty. 

In this parable the Farmer is God and the seed is the Word of God.  And the various places that the seed is planted – the hard ground, the stony ground and the good ground – this ground or soil represents our hearts. The condition of the ground is all important and makes all the difference in whether the seed will grow and produce good fruit or whether it will struggle and die.  We can ask God to prepare our hearts for the seed and give us willing hearts.

 The Good News of the Word is there for all of us to partake. If we want the seed to grow in our lives it will take root.  It will grow and spread and give us great joy.  And the seed will change us and fit us for the kingdom of heaven.  If our hearts are hard and uninviting, the seed will never have a chance.  And if our hearts are cluttered with so many things that crowd the seed, it may never have room to grow at all.  But if our hearts are open to Christ and His gospel, and if we want to know the Truth, then we will know the Truth.  And this mysterious little seed will grow up in us and make us new and we will produce good things in our lives and be a blessing to many. 

 God our Father (the Farmer) sends His Word (the seed) out to the hearts (the ground) of the people. One of the mysteries of the Christian life is that God’s Word is alive like a seed.  Jesus continued teaching the crowds with several more parables about the kingdom of heaven -parables to help us understand this mystery of the kingdom of heaven better. 

The first parable Jesus told was the “Parable of the Mustard Seed”.  These are His words: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in the field.  The mustard seed is the least of all the seeds: but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”  (Matthew 13:31-32) 

And the second parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven was “The Parable of the Leaven”.    Here is what He said: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal.  And the leaven spread all over all of the meal and everything was leavened.”  (Matthew 13:33)

In these two parables Jesus seems to be teaching that in the beginning the Kingdom of Heaven comes to us like a tiny seed or a tiny pinch of leaven. We are in church and the pastor’s sermon moves us and we believe in Jesus as our Savior and want to follow Him.   At the time this seems like an invisible decision as we quietly believe – a tiny mustard seed – and we don’t realize what has happened.  When our heart opens to believe, the tiny invisible seed of the Word slips in and, if we tend it, soon it begins to grow and multiply.  It takes root in our life and gradually over time spreads into all of our actions and thoughts like leaven leavening the whole loaf of bread.  It moves us and molds us and soon we are filled with joy and changed.

Time goes by and we grow and mature and join other Christians who like us also started out from that tiny mustard gospel seeds!  Other Christians who have grown and matured like us, were moved by that same invisible seed growing and taking root.  They come and join us and we all come together as one in Christ because we are moved to do this by this leaven that is moving and spreading and re-making our lives.  A mystery that we cannot comprehend!
 And we all become the Church, the Body of Christ.  And what started out looking like an insignificant little mustard seed has grown and spread into the Worldwide Church Militant!  Fighting evil and feeding the hungry and healing the sick and spreading the seeds of the Gospel and giving to the poor.  And spreading out across the world with the peace of Christ like a great tree with nurturing healing branches.  Jesus told us it would be this way in His parables.  This tiny mustard seed would grow into a great tree and the birds of the air would come and nest in its branches.  And this is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

   

  

Friday, August 19, 2016

How to Deal with Conflicts and Arguments



How to Deal with Conflicts and Arguments

We cannot get away from conflicts and arguments as long as we live in this world. We find them everywhere and we have to face them more often than we think we should.  Sometimes we stay trapped in conflict with enemies for a long time allowing anger and hatred to slip into our thoughts and minds.  We can list all of the reasons why we should be angry at these enemies and it all makes sense.  But Christ calls us to live a life of love and to live by faith even when it doesn’t make sense!

As Christians we know that we have received the love of Jesus and we are called to spread that love to others.  It sounds so good but we run into a problem right off. How do we love the people who hate us when we would rather hate them back?  Shouldn’t we fight back when our enemies are trying to hurt us?  Doesn’t that sound reasonable? We go ahead and criticize our enemies and hate them but we know we are just getting by and that is not enough. Jesus never lets us off the hook as long as we hold onto hate. He just keeps challenging us to be more!

Let’s listen to what Jesus says about this: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you.  Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.  That you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good.  And He sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Doesn’t everyone do that?  And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what do you do more than others?  Therefore, be ‘perfect’, just as your Father in heaven is ‘perfect.’  (Matthew 5:44-48) 

The word “perfect” doesn’t mean what you are thinking.  It means “complete”, “whole” and “mature”.  Just as your Father in heaven is complete in loving the wayward person, so must you try to be.  Have complete love.  You are to be different than the average person.  We are children of our heavenly Father and by faith we are to resemble our Father.  We live by faith and not by sight.

I believe that when we allow revenge and hate to seep into our souls we poison ourselves with these toxic things.  We were not created to live with hate.  It will destroy us. God our heavenly Father has commanded us to live in love and not to live with hate perhaps because He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves and pass these hurts along to others.  We can hate the evil a person does without hating the person. Hate destroys people, organizations, homes and nations.  And we may never know what we are missing.

And the power of love blesses us more than we may realize.  I have always wondered why those early Christians who made up the very first church in Jerusalem were so full of the Holy Spirit.  Those early Christians all had such joy and love for one another. There were healings and miracles among them every day!  Thousands of people became Christians because of their witness and influence.  Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit work among our churches today the way He did among that first church? 

When you read the story of those very first Christians recorded in the book of Acts you can become so impressed with all of their healings and miracles that you might miss the passages that tell us that they were careful to love one another and protect their unity.  And they all put their money together and everyone shared everything.  Sounds almost too good to be true!  But for a little while it worked.  And while it worked, they healed the sick, performed miracles, brought thousands of new people to the Lord and even raised the dead!  Was this very first Christian church given such Holy Spirit power because they loved one another so and because they refused to let differences destroy their unity?  Perhaps if we could love that way today, our churches would be open to the power of the Holy Spirit the way that first church was!    


 We may want to be loving to our enemy  but we feel that we must “fight” against the person who is trying to hurt us otherwise our reputation will be ruined or we will lose out in other ways.  And yes, perhaps we will lose out in the short run.  But time is on our side and in the long run God promises to take care of us.

 Time is greater than space.  This principle enables God (and us) to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results.  Trusting God helps us to patiently endure difficult situations.  We want to rush in and take over our rightful space.  Assert our power and madly attempt to keep everything together in the present.  But fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  If we step back and pray and love the enemy and let God work in the background, He will work in ways that we could never imagine!    

God speaks to us through Scripture and tells us that He will bless us and fight for us.  And again He challenges us to live by faith and obey His command to give up hate and thoughts of revenge for people who are hurting us.  Our job as followers of Christ is to trust and obey.    

Let’s listen to God’s answer to what we should do when we are having conflicts with others: “None of you repay evil for evil. … If possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all people.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves but rather put away your anger: for it is written, ‘Revenge is Mine, (God’s) I will repay,’ says the Lord. “(Romans 12:17a,18-19) Jesus warned his disciples and all of his followers that there are things we cannot yet understand.  We just need to accept them by faith.  (John 16:12-13) Accept the fact that God is the Judge and He will deal with your enemies in His time frame.

In the parable of the weeds among the wheat, (Matthew 13:24-30) the farmer plants good wheat seeds in his fields but then the enemy comes at night and plants weeds hoping to ruin his wheat crop.  The workers on the farm ask the farmer (owner) if they should pull the weeds up out of his field.  But the farmer/owner of the wheat field tells them to wait and leave the weeds growing with his wheat until the final harvest. His reasons are that some of the good wheat may be pulled up with the weeds. The farmer/owner leaves the job of pulling the weeds until the last day – the harvest time - when the wheat will be harvested and the weeds destroyed.

This parable illustrates that the enemy can intrude and cause us (the wheat) harm, but ultimately in the end he will be defeated by the Owner (God) of the field of wheat.  We are commanded: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)  

When a conflict arises, there are several ways of dealing with it.  Some people pretend to ignore it.  Others criticize and fume and become prisoners of it.  Perhaps the best way to deal with a conflict is to face it head on and resolve it if possible.  That is best accomplished when we care about the person or persons we are having the conflict with.  We must be prayerful during conflicts, ready to negotiate and ready to try to see and sympathize with the other person’s side of the problem, even when we cannot agree.  But we should never think less of the person who disagrees with us and never call them names or cut them off. Never allow the conflict to break our unity.    

If we cannot agree with our adversary we can go beyond the surface of the conflict to see the person who disagrees with us in their deepest dignity.  We must continue to love and honor that person even if we cannot agree with them.  Agree to disagree and refuse to allow the disagreement to break the unity we have in Christ.  Unity is greater than conflict.  Live a life where conflicts and oppositions can achieve a diversified life-giving unity.

Christ is our peace and has made all things one in Himself. (Ephesians 2:14) The Gospel message always begins with a greeting of peace.  Obviously peace and unity are all important to the Lord.  And peace is possible because the Lord has overcome the world and its constant conflicts “by making peace through the blood of His cross.”  (Colossians 1:20)   

I took many ideas and excerpts for this blog from “The Joy of the Gospel” written by Pope Francis.  Pages 155-164.   




Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mercy or Legalism?


 Mercy or Legalism?

It was a sunny Sabbath day and Jesus and his disciples were walking through fields of grain on their way to the synagogue for worship.  They were getting hungry so they picked some heads of grain and ate them as they walked along.  Meanwhile the religious leaders, who were called “Pharisees” had been spying on Jesus and his disciples, waiting to catch them doing something wrong.  When they saw one of the disciples picking grain they rushed across the field toward Jesus shouting angrily: “Look here!  Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”  (Matthew 12:2) 

The Jewish religious leaders or Pharisees back then had put their own strict legalistic interpretation on the Scriptures.  God had given laws and commandments to the Jewish people telling them how to share and live lovingly and justly with one another.  But often the Pharisees would turn these laws into heavy burdens for the people.

One of God’s commands given to the Jewish people (and to us) was to rest on the Sabbath day.  To stop working and take a break.  Worship God and lay their burdens down.  Let their employees stop working on the Sabbath along with their animals.  God’s Word states that the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  This command is one of the Ten Commandments and begins this way: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  In it you shall not do any work.”  (Exodus 20:8) 

The Pharisees were upset because they believed that Jesus’ disciples were working when they plucked grain to eat!  That small effort of plucking grain caused the disciples to break God’s Sabbath so these religious leaders argued!  They shook their fists at Jesus accusing Him and His disciples of serious sin and promising God’s judgment would follow.

Jesus answered them with several stories.  He reminded them that their ancestor, King David, entered the house of God with his men.  These men had not eaten for several days. They all ate the showbread that had been dedicated to God.  It was not lawful for David and his men to eat this bread, as it was meant only for the priests.  (1 Samuel 21:1-6) David and his men had been very hungry and couldn’t find food.  Even though they broke the law by eating this bread, they were excused by God.  Jesus explains that Sabbath regulations may sometimes yield to human needs.  Human need takes precedence over a strict interpretation of the Law, Jesus is telling the legalistic Pharisees. 

Then Jesus reminds the Pharisees that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath by working, and yet God counts them blameless.  (Matthew 12:5) The priests must give offerings to God and hold worship services on the Sabbath, so they must work on the Sabbath if the people are to come to temple worship.  Jesus seemed to be saying that there are exceptions to a rule.   

And then Jesus finishes with these words: “Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.  But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”  (Matthew 12:6-8) 

Jesus seems to be saying that God ordained rest on the Sabbath to bless people, not to add another burden on them.  Jesus tells the religious leaders that if they had known what the Law and the Scriptures meant they would not have condemned his disciples.  The Pharisees had spent their lives studying God’s laws, but they still didn’t know the “meaning” of those laws.  God had given the Jewish people many laws but Jesus once said that all of God’s laws could be summed up in just two laws - laws of love.  “Love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 27:37-40) Did these religious leaders not understand the meaning of God’s laws because they lacked love? 

Jesus was also telling the Pharisees that He was “Lord of the Sabbath”, although they did not want to hear that.   Jesus, the Son of God, has been given authority over everything and that includes the Sabbath.  Jesus also hinted at who He was by telling the Pharisees: “ In this place is One greater than the temple” (Matthew 12:6)   If working in the temple would justify the priests working on the Sabbath, wouldn’t the service to Christ much more justify the disciples picking grain on the Sabbath while serving Christ.  Christ in a wheat field was greater than the temple. Jesus was not saying here that it was not important to rest and worship God on the Sabbath or to keep all of God’s laws.  But I believe that He was saying that there are exceptions to the rules. 

You may be surprised that Jesus and His disciples were plucking grain from another person’s field, but this was a common practice in those days and never thought of as stealing.  God had given the Jewish people laws encouraging them to share with one another and never let another person go hungry.  Again mercy was all important in God’s plan.  One of God’s laws to the Jewish people instructed them regarding this practice.  “If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.”  (Deuteronomy 24:25) 



 The Pharisees and nearly all the religious leaders of that day did not recognize Jesus as their promised Messiah, and rejected Him.  They refused to see His miracles or recognize that He was healing hundreds of people.  They wanted to kill Him for causing a lame man to walk on the Sabbath day.  And they were frightened and outraged when He brought Lazarus back from the dead.  So frightened and outraged that they began plotting to kill Him.

 Jesus Christ was messing up their little world. Their Messiah had come to them bringing light and life and they weren’t ready for Him.  They were enjoying the power and authority they had over the Jewish people with their many strict laws and restrictions. They would have to change and do things differently if they were to believe in Jesus.  And they definitely didn’t want to change.  

Jesus also comes into your world bringing light and life.  And He also calls for you to follow Him.  To let Him be your Savior. To go into the world sharing His love and mercy with others. To leave your hate behind and forgive.  Are you willing to let Him change you?  What will your answer be?      


   


Sunday, August 7, 2016

An Invitation from Jesus



An Invitation from Jesus

“Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)   Jesus stood on a grassy hill near the Sea of Galilee, surrounded by the crowds and gave His invitation. He opened His arms wide and invited them all to come to Him.  To share His yoke and to learn from Him and to allow Him to give them rest.  His invitation was for all of the people back then and His invitation is also for all of us today!    

Jesus had just gotten through revealing something about Himself to these local people. He had spent three years among these people teaching and healing their diseases and performing miracles. And by now these people who lived around the Sea of Galilee were wondering if Jesus was the Messiah promised in Scripture.  And Jesus tells them outright who He is.  He says: “All things have been committed to Me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except through the Father, and no one knows the Father except through the Son, and those who the Son chooses to reveal Him.”  (Matthew 11:27) 

Jesus’ invitation is like no other invitation because Jesus is like no other.  As He says, He is the Son of God and all things have been committed to Him.  A Royal Invitation from the Son of God who is gentle and humble in heart and who is also our Savior has been issued to all the people on earth then and now. He has the power to do what He promises, because He is the Son of God and all authority has been given to Him.  Jesus is calling each one of us to come to Him and get to know Him too. He promises to take away the burden and guilt of sin and to give us rest in our souls. 

To accept Jesus’ invitation, a person must want to turn from their sin. (1 John 1:9) He or she must come to Jesus and submit to Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus first gave his Invitation two thousand years ago to the Jewish crowds following Him.  Thousands of them had come out of their towns and villages to listen to Him preach. To watch Him heal the lepers and open blind persons’ eyes so they could see.  Many of them had crowded around as He gave a lame person the power to walk and hundreds were amazed and astonished when He raised people from the dead.  Surely these people who had been there and seen His miracles up close would accept His Invitation. But it didn’t work out that way!

Even though many of the folks from the Galilee region did repent of their sins and accept Jesus’ Invitation, many more neglected His call even after they had been healed by Him!  Later Jesus had strong words for these people who were there to see Him heal and raise the dead but who still turned their backs on His call. 

 Here is what Jesus said: “Woe to you, Korazin! (Korazin was a town in Israel) Woe to you, Bethsaida! (Bethsaida was also an Israeli town) If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum (another town by the Sea of Galilee) will you be lifted up to the skies?  No, you will go down to the depths.  If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  (Matthew 11:21-24)

 Jesus was teaching that there will be a day of judgment in the future for the whole world as Scripture teaches.  Jesus stated that if the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon had been blessed by  having Him with them healing and preaching like Korazin and Bethsaida had, they would have repented of their sins and followed Him.  Tyre and Sidon would not have fallen, but would have remained thriving cities. Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, all towns near the Sea of Galilee  had been given such an advantage by having Jesus right there with them healing and saving! And yet they still ignored His Invitation!

One day when Jesus was ministering around Galilee, several of John the Baptist’s helpers showed up looking for Him.   John the Baptist had sent them to ask Jesus a question.   John the Baptist had gone before Jesus announcing Jesus with these words: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) John the Baptist knew so well who Jesus was but now he was locked away in a dark prison and he had time to question his faith in Jesus.  His question to Jesus was: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”  (Matthew 11:3) 

Jesus sent these words back to John through his disciples: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the person who does not fall away on account of Me.”  (Matthew 11:4-6) 

John perhaps had expected Jesus to keep him from going to prison.  And he may have thought that the promised Messiah would ride in on a white horse with a flaming sword and mighty armies and take care of all of Israel’s problems with the Romans.  Many Israelites expected their “Messiah” to come and save them from the Romans who were ruling them at that time.  But Jesus did not live up to their worldly expectations, so many of them did not recognize Him.   Jesus came to save them from so much more and give them eternal life. It seems even John the Baptist, who had great faith in Jesus faltered and doubted Him because Jesus did not do what he had expected.  And Jesus said to John the Baptist’s helpers: “Blessed is the person who does not fall away on account of Me.”  (Matthew 11:6) 

  Sometimes Jesus may not work in our lives the way we expect either.  He does not always remove our problems in the manner or time frame that we think He will. We have to trust Him to work the way He works even when we don’t understand all the reasons.  But like Jesus said, we are blessed when we im Hianddo not fall away on account of Him.  When we trust Him no matter what.

Jesus has given His Invitation to the world!  A call to come to Him and learn of Him and take on His yoke. And a promise to give our souls rest.  Some folks reject or ignore His invitation like many of the folks who lived in the Galilee region and were there when He taught and healed.  Others like John the Baptist have doubts and ask questions but still believe in Him and follow Him.  And then there are many who accept His Invitation whole heartedly and trust Him and are blessed forever after with peace and joy and light and love and salvation and more. Jesus Christ still stands there with His arms outstretched calling out to each one of us, “Come to Me”.  How will you answer Him?

     


Saturday, July 30, 2016

I Send You out as Sheep among Wolves



I Send You out as Sheep among Wolves
Matthew 10

Jesus called his twelve disciples to do a great work. He commissioned them to go out into the world and preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons.   Along with His call, Jesus also gave them His authority to heal diseases and drive out evil spirits. He gave them power to work miracles for the confirmation of the gospel.  They were to use this power to do good because they were sent by a good God whose mercy is over all His work. 

Jesus told his twelve disciples to go to the “lost sheep of Israel”. (Matthew 10:6) But later Jesus’ followers would be called to go out to the rest of the world with the Christian message (Mark 10:11-14). These twelve disciples were called “apostles” because they were the very first ones to go out and spread the gospel, but we all follow in their footsteps.  Biblical scholars believe that Jesus’ instructions, recorded in Matthew 10 about how to behave and what to expect on their journeys, were meant for all of His followers in every generation as they go out to be His people and witness in the world. 

Jesus began by telling His disciples not to take money or bags or extra clothes along as they went out.  The people they would be blessing with Gods’ message would supply their needs.  These very first missionaries were to depend upon God to provide and make a way for them.  They were called to walk by faith and not by sight. To remember that they had been called by God and He would be with them.   And I believe we followers today are called to walk by faith as well.

When the disciples would arrive in a town they were told to look for people there who had a heart for God and to politely ask if they might stay with these Godly folks while they were preaching and healing. The disciples were to bless the house they stayed in with God’s peace. The family who hosted them would reap the benefits of God’s blessing. But if the family or the whole town rejected Jesus’ disciples and threw them out, those folks would lose out on that special blessing. (Matthew 10:11-14) Great blessings can be lost by neglecting what God has prepared for us. Scripture says: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”  (Hebrews 2:3) 

Bible scholars believe that Christ’s words to His twelve disciples were also words meant for all of His disciples down through the ages. We followers of Christ in every generation have all been given the commission to go into the world and preach the gospel.  (Mark 16:15) Jesus calls all of His followers down through the ages to share the news of salvation with others and pray for the sick, feed the hungry and help the poor.    

And Jesus also warned all of His followers both past and present that there would be sufferings and persecutions that go along with this work of spreading the gospel.  Let’s listen to some of Jesus’ warnings to His followers in Matthew 10.  “Behold, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore, be a wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Be on guard against people: because they may hand you over to the local councils and whip you in their synagogues. “ (Matthew 10:16-17)   We can be imprisoned and beaten and shamed and prosecuted just because we are Christians. 

Jesus tells us that we will be persecuted by some people in this world because we are “not of this world”.  We are new creations in Christ and we have the Holy Spirit in us.  So we don’t quite fit into the old secular worldly system anymore.  Christ calls all of His own to this commission to share the gospel and do good.  But we are sent out like “sheep among ravenous wolves”.  And like policemen and firemen who can face danger and even death every day in the course of doing their duties, the followers of Christ can also face danger and death as they go out to be God’s people in the world. 

Jesus spoke about this mystery here: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.  If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own.  But now you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”  (John 15:18-19) When we are surrounded by this hate we are to be “wise as serpents” and remember that Jesus told us to expect this. But also we are to be as “harmless as doves” and not strike back with more hate.    

Jesus goes on to say: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child: children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  All people will hate you because of Me, but he or she who stands firm to the end will be saved.  When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.”  (Matthew 10:21-23a) There is a spiritual battle going on between good and evil, light and darkness, and the heavenly kingdom and the worldly kingdom.  And this spiritual conflict can even occur between members of the same family!  Christ was betrayed and led off to death not by an outsider but by the kiss of one of His most trusted and beloved disciples.  So we can experience this sorrow also.

If we are to reign with Christ we must also suffer with Him.  Christ will faithfully be with us through the periods in life of shame and sorrow and pain. The dark night of the soul will not be long. We Christians are His witnesses in this world not only in our doing work but in our suffering work. It is one of God’s mysteries. Jesus reminds us that: “Whoever finds his/her life will lose it, and whoever loses his/her life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)   Perhaps we will be best prepared to follow Christ through the bad times when we learn to hold loosely the things of this life.     




Friday, July 22, 2016

Jesus Speaks about Dealing with Other People's Faults


Jesus Speaks about Dealing with Other People’s Faults

Every time we Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive our sins in the same way that we forgive those who sin against us.   Part of the Lord’s Prayer reads: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” (Matthew 6:12).  Jesus taught this prayer to the disciples when they asked Him how to pray.  And then right after teaching this prayer Jesus added: “If you forgive people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14)  

These are tough words from Jesus.  God, in forgiving us, has a peculiar respect to our forgiving those who have injured us.  Our selfish nature hates to comply with this.  We love to stay angry at people who have slighted us and we are good at playing the part of the victim. Over and over in Scripture we are commanded to forgive, so we must bind ourselves to it. We have a promise here.  “If you forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”    Christ came into the world as the great Peace-Maker, not only to reconcile us to God but to one another. 

Then Jesus also tells us not to judge others.  This is what He said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.  Now can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye.  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:1-5) 

Jesus is telling us here not to sit in the judgment seat or despise our brother and put him down.  (Romans 14:10) We must not judge unkindly or with a spirit of revenge or a desire to harm the person being judged.  We are to leave all of this to God.  There will be a judgment day.  It is God’s prerogative to try the heart.

After Jesus gave this lesson about not judging others He finished with these words: “Do not give dogs your sacred treasure and do not throw your pearls before swine.  If you do they may trample them under foot and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”  (Matthew 7:6)  Bible scholars believe that the ”sacred  treasure” or the “pearls” Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:6 is the gospel.  And the “dogs” and “swine” are people who are too brutish to care about the gospel. And we would have to judge that a person was a “dog” or “swine” in order to heed Christ’s warning. Scripture warns us not to judge others but then calls us to test everything.  Doesn’t that sound like a balancing act? We are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  (Matthew 10:16) Perhaps Jesus is calling for his followers to put up some boundaries and protect themselves from harm by not preaching to those who make fun of the gospel.  Jesus also says: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14) Perhaps the words” shake the dust off your feet” may mean to write it off and move on.  And to not allow toxic people to tear you down.    

As children of God we are commanded to love one another.  That is one of the ways that Scripture tells us that we can know that we are Christians.  Scripture says: “By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”  (John 13:35)   Constant criticism often destroys love- the love that our heavenly Father desires his children to have for one another. Sadly, groups who profess to know God while constantly criticizing others have done a lot to scare people away from Christ.  There will always be reasons to criticize, but Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek.  (Matthew 5:39) He loved us and forgave all our faults so He calls us to love others and forgive their faults.

 Once, years ago, we were almost destroyed in a Christian group that was very critical.  So today we belong to a church that is very loving.  It makes all the difference. Over and over in Scripture God calls us to love one another and bear one another’s burdens.  (Ephesians 4:2)  To work for the common good and not just for ourselves.  We must not overlook this all important call to love others when we follow Christ. 

Christ calls us never to make fun or bully another person and never to call another person names.  Here are His words: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother without a good cause will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” must answer to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders).  And anyone who says, “you fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”  (Matthew 5:22)   Scripture says: “Blessed is the person who does not sit in the seat of the mocker,” (Psalm 1:3) Malicious slander is a poison under the tongue that can tear down the other person.  But Christ is calling us, His followers, to build up the other person.  We are to carefully preserve Christian love and peace with our brothers and sisters.  


One day while Jesus was out teaching and healing the people, His disciples turned to Him and  asked a question. “Who is the greatest person in the kingdom of heaven?” To answer the disciples question Jesus called a little child over to Himself and said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a little child in My Name welcomes Me.”  (Matthew 18:3-5) 

The disciples had been jockeying among themselves for who might have the higher position in heaven.  Competing against each other as to who might be the most impressive or the smartest or the best.  We humans so soon learn to shove others aside in the struggle to get to the “top”.  But Jesus holds up this simple child to show us the danger of pride and ambition.  Wasn’t it pride that threw the sinning angels out of heaven!  Instead Christ is teaching his followers to be humble.  He shows the honor and advancement that attend humility. And He teaches that we are to become as humble as a little child if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.

When we are humble like a little child we can simply follow our Father’s call and love imperfect people.  A little child just follows what her parents tells her to do.  When pride doesn’t get in the way we can forgive people easier when they hurt or insult us or our loved ones.  Jesus set his reputation aside and endured the shame of the cross for our sakes and when we are humble like a little child we can set aside our reputation and love and forgive those who hurt us, as Christ has asked us to do.



One of the Pharisees asked Jesus which commandment in God’s Word was the greatest.  And Jesus answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37) 

Observe the weight and greatness of these two commands.  Jesus is saying here that everything hangs upon the law of love.  Take away love and everything falls to the ground and comes to nothing.  Love is the root and spring of all other duties. Jesus calls us to a greater and even greater love – greater than I am capable of having without His help. Let us pray that God will give us the power to love Him with our whole heart and mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  If we want to be what He wants us to be, He will answer our prayer give it to us.   



       

  


Friday, July 15, 2016

Is Anything Worth Everything?



Is Anything Worth Everything?


Jesus began his preaching in the city of Capernaum on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.  And He began his preaching with these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  (Matthew 4:17) Our pastor says that the kingdom of heaven is the realm where God’s will is done.  And when Jesus taught his followers the Lord’s prayer he included these words: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Jesus was saying that this realm or place was near, even in their (our) midst, waiting to be discovered.  We see the place where God’s will is done when someone stands up for what is right in the face of criticism.  Or when love conquers hate.

Jesus tells the listening crowd several stories or parables about the kingdom of heaven, or the realm where God’s will is done.  He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.  When a person finds it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found a pearl of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  (Matthew 13:44-46)   

These two parables of Jesus tell us that the kingdom of heaven is worth everything!  The merchant sold everything he had to purchase the pearl.  And the man who found the treasure in the field sold all he had to purchase the field so he could have the treasure.  We are called to seek and search.  To look for what God is doing in the world and join in.  Follow Christ by doing things that make for peace and love and help reach out to the poor. The kingdom of heaven is light and life and love and peace and joy.  It is a treasure, a pearl of great price that is worth everything we have and much more. Jesus was calling people then and He is calling us now to repent and give Him all that we are and all that we have. 

The gospel is the field where the treasure is hidden.  And Jesus Christ is the true Treasure: in Him there is eternal life. The treasure is not hidden in an enclosed garden for a select few to find but it is hidden out in an open field for all to come and find.  Whatever treasures we find are all our own.  The Bible is the Word of God and those who would search the scriptures in the Bible can find Christ and eternal life. (John 5:39)

We humans here on earth are busy searching for pearls. One pearl would be riches, another would be honor, and another would be learning and higher education.  We pursue happiness and pleasure, fame and excitement. There are counterfeit pearls out there that we can chase after. But Jesus Christ is the only Pearl of great price.  When we have found Him, we have enough to make us joyful forever.  He covers us with His righteousness and takes away our sins. A true Christian is a spiritual merchant, that seeks and finds this Pearl of great price.  He or she desires to be spiritually rich.  But those who would have a saving interest in Christ, must be willing to pay everything they have for Him and leave all to follow Him.

And then Jesus gives us a third parable about the kingdom of heaven.  This time He compares the kingdom of heaven to nets cast into the sea.  Here is what e said”HeHHe He said: “Once again the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the sea and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 13:47-50)

Here in Jesus’ parable we find that the world is the vast sea.  And the preaching of the gospel is the casting of the nets into the sea to catch fish. This net gathers some good edible fish and some inedible fish, along with seaweed and junk.  In the visible church there are some inedible fish along with the good edible fish. The net is still filling now and it is not known yet what is in it.  The fishermen themselves cannot always distinguish the good from the bad.  But the time is coming when the net will be completely full and drawn in to the shore. And when that time arrives, there shall be a separation between the good and the bad that were gathered in it. 

Many Christian today do not like to talk about hell and judgment!  We talk about God’s grace and His love for us.  But we leave out God’s justice and judgment. We live in a world where there is good and evil.  And God is a God of justice. In order to have justice we have to have judgment. – courts, policemen, judges, prisons. When crimes are committed there must be some form of judgment.  If we did not deal with crime or have laws protecting citizens from robbers, murderer and terrorists, our society would crumble. 

Jesus Christ went about preaching about God’s grace and love, but He also preached about hell and judgment.  In fact He mentioned judgment and hell many times in his sermons. In this parable we are reading today, Jesus tells us the time will come when the nets will be full.  And the end of the age will be here. The good will be separated from the bad. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

Jesus began his ministry inviting everyone into the kingdom of heaven.  God loves and wants them all. There would be a price to pay, but what is everlasting life worth? Heaven we are told in Scripture is a place where there will be no death, no sin, no sorrow or crying, a place of life and love and peace.  If we could bring our sins along into heaven, it wouldn’t be heaven anymore, would it?

 So Scripture says sin cannot enter heaven.  And we cannot get rid of our sin by ourselves.  That is one of the reasons the Treasure hidden in the field or the Pearl of great price is so valuable.  Christ does for us what we can never do for ourselves.  In Christ we are made sinless and are able to enter the kingdom of heaven. At the end of the age the angels will throw us over on the pile of good fish.  We won’t be left outside. I think that great judgment day will be here sooner than we think.  If we have searched for and found the Treasure or purchased the Pearl of great price we will be taken care of on that final day at the end of the age.     

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Cost of Following Jesus


The Cost of Following Jesus

Jesus traveled all around Israel preaching and teaching and healing as He went. The blind, the lame, the mute, He healed them all!   And He even raised the dead. (Matthew 9:22)    Scripture says that Jesus had great compassion on the sick and on those who had no hope and He was there to comfort and heal.  He went about preaching and teaching and healing.  And of course the word got out and crowds soon followed after Him wherever He went.  The masses brought their sick to Him to be healed and they listened to His sermons wondering if He might be the Messiah that had been promised to them by their prophets.

The Jewish religious leaders soon became upset.  When they heard that the crowds loved Jesus and were following Him everywhere, they were afraid that they might lose some of their influence over these people.  The religious leaders spoke for God to the people and they enjoyed the power and authority they held over the people of Israel.  When the Pharisees and priests heard that Jesus was healing people, they were frightened and angry.  Instead of listening to Jesus to see if perhaps He spoke God’s Words, most of them closed their minds and hearts to Him.  And they tried to put Him to death for healing a lame man on the Sabbath.

One of the religious leaders did come to Jesus one day when He was in a large group teaching and healing.  The religious leader spoke to Jesus and said: “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthew 8:19) Jesus smiled at him and replied: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  (Matthew 8:20)

What did Jesus mean when He discouraged the religious leader from following Him by telling him that essentially He, the Lord and Savior of the world, was homeless and had no safe comfortable place to sleep at night?  It’s true, Jesus and his disciples lived upon the charity of sympathetic people.  Scripture says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that through He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)  

Perhaps Jesus wanted the religious leader to know up front that following Him would not be easy.  That each of His followers must endure hardship and every believer would carry a cross.  The Master (Christ) would be persecuted and so would the Master’s followers.  The Lord Jesus would give his life for his own and his followers might also be called on to become martyrs for their faith.  Many who would consider following Christ would turn away because of the difficulties of the journey.  It would seem that this Jewish religious leader who wanted to follow Christ turned away when Jesus told him that there would be hardships. We don’t hear of him again.  Jesus calls us to follow Him and never turn back no matter what.   


Scripture says: Now if we are children, then we are heirs, - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”  (Romans 8:17)  And also: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. “(1 Peter 4:13)

Another disciple also came to Jesus and said that he wanted to follow Him but first he must go and bury his father.  This time Jesus replied: “Follow Me, and let the dead bury the dead.”  (Matthew 8:22)   I am not sure what Jesus meant here.  He always insisted that children should honor and respect their parents.  I think Jesus meant that following Him would sometimes cause family problems, even family breakups.  Some families would even disown a family member if he or she continued to follow Christ.  And in these cases Christ’s followers should choose Christ over their rejecting family.   

 Jesus also said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A person’s enemies will be the members of his/her own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.  Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:34-42)

Tough words! Christ calls us to love Him first. He wants the real thing!  Not one who starts out with Him for a little while but then rejects Him.  Such a person is unworthy of Him. Christ doesn’t deserve their unfaithfulness.  But He is not telling us to reject our families.  They may reject us, but we don’t reject them.  With Christ we will love our family members more than we would without Him. We are called to love Christ and love our family too. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children.  But if a follower of Christ puts family ahead of Christ, the follower is unworthy of Him.  Those are the words of Jesus.

 When we read the whole Bible and not just this one passage we can see that Christ always calls families to love each other and take care of one another.  But sometimes when we try to follow Christ it may anger a family member or go against what they want us to do.  If that happens we must not be discouraged from following Christ because of the disapproval of our relative.  And we must not reject Christ even though the loss of a family member’s love may be deeply upsetting and painful for us. When a problem comes up, we must do what we believe is right, what we feel Christ is calling us to do, even if it causes our dearest family members to be angry with us.  They may want us to do something that we know is very wrong.  It may be difficult to say no to family. Christ wants first place in our lives and for us that means doing what we believe is right and good and staying away from what we feel is wrong even when family members feel differently.  That is how I interpret Christ’s words and I may be wrong.

Those who are best prepared for the life to come, are those who sit loosely here in this present life.  It was on the condition of being prepared for suffering that Christ took on his disciples back when He walked the earth.  And He still wants our first allegiance today if we are to follow Him.  It is our duty, not only to believe in Christ, but to be ready to suffer for Him.   We don’t only follow Him in the good times, but we are to be there through the difficult times too.  If Jesus Christ is worth anything, He is worth everything.  He gave His all for us so we should give back our all for Him.  It’s the least that we can do.  

   


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jesus Heals Leprosy and Palsy


Jesus Heals Leprosy and Palsy

Large crowds followed Jesus down the mountainside where He had been preaching.  When everyone reached the valley floor a man with leprosy limped up to Jesus and knelt down before Him begging. “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”  Jesus smiled and immediately answered the leper saying: “I am willing.  Be clean.”  And immediately the leper was healed.  (Matthew 8:2-3) When the leper saw that his terrible disease was completely gone, he was overjoyed and began jumping up and down and thanking and praising Jesus.  But Jesus asked him not to tell anyone and to go to the priest and be pronounced “clean”

The Jews in Jesus’ day believed that leprosy was a punishment from God and that the person who had this dreadful disease must have committed a terrible sin. Leprosy was thought of as an uncleanness rather than a disease and the society had rules for dealing with it .  A person with leprosy was forced to leave his/her family and become an outcast from society.  No one was to touch the leper or get near him. The poor leper was forced to live alone or with other lepers outside the city.  If the leper walked by another person he or she was to shout the word “unclean, unclean” loudly so that the others could keep their distance. Jesus broke the rules of society, as He often did, and welcomed the lepers to come to Him.  Jesus and his disciples healed many people who had leprosy.

According to Scripture, when Jesus walked the earth He never turned anyone down who came to Him and asked to be healed.  The leper had seen others healed by Jesus and he knew that Jesus had the power to make him clean from leprosy.  But he asked if Jesus was willing.  And Jesus immediately responded that He was willing.  Jesus healed by a word of power, the power of His authority. “Be clean”. He spoke the word and it was done. He put out his hand and touched the leper and he was clean!  Leprosy was a somewhat contagious disease but Christ can make the foulest clean.  We are invited to come to Christ as the Great Physician and ask Him for healing.  

After the leper went on his way, a centurion came to Jesus asking for help.  A centurion was a Roman officer who was responsible for one hundred soldiers. The centurion told Jesus that his servant was lying in his house paralyzed and in terrible pain.  Before the centurion could say more Jesus answered him, “I will go and heal him.”  (Matthew 8:7)  

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes: and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’  (Matthew 8:8-9)

Scripture says that when Jesus heard this from the centurion He was astonished at his faith and told the crowd: “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 8:10-12) Then Jesus told the centurion: “Go!  It will be done just as you believed it would.”  And that very hour the centurion’s servant was healed. (Matthew 8:13)    

The Jewish people longed for their independence and freedom from Rome and they resented Roman rule and the Roman soldiers living in their country. Though the centurion was a Gentile and a Roman soldier who was hated by the Jewish people, Jesus was pleased with him and his faith and praised him and healed his servant.  Jesus was as ready to heal the poorest servant as the richest master. 

Jesus admired the centurion not for his prestige as a Roman officer but for his faith and his grace.  And Christ would want us not to admire worldly pomp, but a kind and faithful spirit.  Some of the Jews may have been unhappy with Christ for admiring this centurion’s faith since he was a Gentile and a Roman, and they thought only the Jews were supposed to be able to know God.

 Many Jews at that time felt that they were the only nation that knew God and all others would not be saved.  Jesus was telling them here that many from the east and from the west (people from all over the world) will find their way to God.  Believers who in this world were distant from each other in time, place, or outward condition, shall all meet together in heaven.  A  society of believers will be a part of the joys of heaven.

 And Jesus also said that some of “the subjects of the kingdom (the Jews) will be thrown outside where there will be darkness…”  (Matthew 8:12) He might have been saying that just because the Jewish people had a Covenant or promise with God still if they turned away from that promise they would not find eternal life.  He might have been thinking about the Jewish religious leaders who would later put Him to death. 
What did the centurion do to please and astonish Jesus?  First I believe the centurion came to Jesus in humility.  He humbly said: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”  He also said that he didn’t want to put Jesus to any extra trouble by having him walk all the way to his home to heal his servant.  And he must have known that Jesus is Lord because he calls him “Lord”.  The centurion was an important man yet he owned his unworthiness before God. The centurion believed that Jesus was compassionate and merciful and was able and willing to heal his servant.  He trusted Jesus and that was all important. Many people came to Jesus for their own needs but this centurion came for his servant’s needs.  It sounds like he was a caring person.

Also the centurion had enough faith to believe that Jesus didn’t need to go with him to his home and heal his servant.  He believed that our Lord Jesus Christ could heal from a distance.   Scripture says:” Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6) The thing that Christ seeks is faith, and wherever it is, He finds it even if it is small. Do we have a faith that pleases Jesus?  That astonishes Him like the centurion’s faith did?

 We may believe that Christ can heal from a distance like the centurion did. But do we have the faith to believe that Christ will answer our prayer even though there is a distance in time until they are answered?  Perhaps our prayer will not be answered for many years.  Or until after we die.  Do we become discouraged and give up when too much time passes and our prayer still has not been answered?  Can we have faith that Christ will answer our prayer even after many decades have passed? 

Jesus healed the centurion’s servant because the centurion asked in faith and believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He could heal.  Christ told the centurion: “Be it done as you have believed.”  (Matthew 8:13) We see in this story the power of Christ to heal and also the power of faith.  We are the modern day centurions. Christ is in our midst today and we are invited to come to Him and ask and believe. He is waiting to answer our prayers if they are in His good will. (James 4:3) Jesus tells us: “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2) “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  (Matthew 21:22)