What is your grade? Pass or Fail?

God gives us tests

Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17; Matthew 14 A Faith Test

When you look about and see the tasks before you, do you become overwhelmed? I wonder if that is why Jesus gave his power to the 12 and sent them out. There was so much to be done and so little time. So he sent them out and said, do not take provisions for yourself: no staff, no food, no extra clothing, and no money. Just go and preach the gospel message and so they did. “And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” [Mark 6:13]. Again Luke records: “Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” [Luke 9:6]

Yet still the disciples, like the masses, wanted “proof” or evidence that Jesus was who he said he was and Jesus tests their faith. In the middle of the night on the Sea of Galilee, they were afraid. It was Peter that said: “if it is you, Lord…” They had just seen miracle after miracle as they went and preached and now they were afraid? Now they want to know if it is really Him?

Here’s a lesson we can learn: We can do the work of Jesus and still be afraid, still wonder. When will we step out of the boat and trust that He is who He said He is. It is then no wonder that He said to them: where is your faith?

Where is my faith? Where is your faith?

The Shepherd Test

Sheep need a shepherd

Matthew 9 and 10 Jesus spent a fair amount of time walking among the people, listening to their conversations. He saw those paralyzed both physically and spiritually. He saw a desperate father in need of direction when all around him was collapsing. He encountered religious leaders who could not or would not see the helpless, the needy, and unloved. Instead of meeting their needs, they watched Jesus, ridiculed and scoffed, and attributed his work to Beelzebub. They lacked the one thing this flock needed: compassion. They were just like the foolish, worthless shepherds of Zechariah 11:17 who left the flock to fend for themselves. Jesus noted that times had come and gone, but it was still like in the times of Zechariah. The sheep were scattered with no one to lead them. In sharp contrast, in Psalm 23, we see a picture of the good shepherd who leads, restores, and binds up the brokenhearted. Jesus is that Good Shepherd. His sheep hear his voice, and they follow Him, and He is even willing to lay down his life for the flock.

Somewhere there is a sheep in need of the Good Shepherd’s compassionate touch. 

If Jesus came now, would I pass the test of a good shepherd?

True Discipleship means…

True Discipleship

Mark 4-5; Matthew 8:14-31 To Leave the Results to God

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would” bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;” [Isa 61:1] Yet, some did not experience those blessings because Satan, the master deceiver, had one goal: to blind “the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” [2Co 4:4]

Take for example the sower parable and the seed on the walkway which fell where the birds came and ate it up. There are hearts just like the pathway, so hard that the seed cannot penetrate. Just like the birds which snatch the seed away, Satan snatches away the Word from the hardened heart.

Why does God allow this? Why does He leave them untended and in need of tilling and preparation? We must trust the words of Deut 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever,” One day, God will answer those questions; in the meantime, we must look after the other seeds, till the soil, water and fertilize so they may sprout and take root. That is discipleship.

Where are you sowing, tilling, and tending the soft hearts and leaving the results to God?

Sow the seed and leave the results to God

sow the seed

Luke 8 and Matt 13 Ever go back to your high school reunion? If you have, you come away with ideas and thoughts about those four years. They walked with you, sat beside you in class but after high school, some stayed behind, and others went a different path. It was true for Jesus as well. He had grown up in Nazareth, but now he was busy with the Master’s business, and as he visits his hometown, he is shunned, scoffed at, ridiculed, challenged, and questioned about his family. As he is preparing to leave, he states: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” [Matt 13:57] What does he mean by that? He means that another’s perception is based on what they remember, not what has changed. We face the same.

Circle back to the demon-possessed man. He, too, was changed, and Jesus told him to go and proclaim what God had done for him. Like the parable of the sower, he went sowing the seeds of his change; there were four reactions. Some shook their head and went on their way; some heard and were thrilled for his transformation, but then the “old gang” made life difficult, so they went back to their old ways. Some were thrilled and for a time walked with him, but then the challenges of everyday life were greater than the new life, so they walked back. But, then some heard and rejoiced with him, and they grew and prospered, and those were the ones that God used to prepare the way for a later time when the new believers would have to leave Jerusalem because of persecution.

The principle is don’t let your past dictate your “now;” go and spread the seed and leave the results to God.

The Witnesses…

God reveals Himself in creation

Matt 12:22-50 and Luke 11 The Witness of the Spoken Word & Creation

There are many today that seek visible or tangible evidence to believe. I will believe when x,y,z happens, or when I can see God do a miracle before me. I will believe when I find the “real Bible.” I will believe when…and you can fill in the blank. Yet, as Jesus is looking about the corrupt leaders of the nation, He said to them, and He says today: neither Nineveh nor the Queen of Sheba had some miracle or some visible evidence. They believed because of the spoken word of Jonah and King Solomon, and they believed.

Paul told the Romans that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in His creation. Again he says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Yet he reminded them that even when Isaiah preached and they heard, they hardened their hearts so they could not believe. Men’s hearts are no different today. That is why we must be the Jonah’s and the Solomon’s to share the good news. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” [Rom 10:15]

Are our feet bringing the good news?

Go and Tell

John asks, Jesus answers

Matthew 11: What are we to go and tell?

As John sits in prison, he may be set apart from the goings-on, but he is not unaware of what is happening beyond those prison walls. He still has connections with his advisors/disciples, and in their discussions, he sends them to Jesus to ask: “Are you for real?” Jesus lovingly answers the questioners with this statement: “go and tell.” At the end of Matthew, Jesus will again use those words: “go and tell.” So what are we to go and tell?

It is this; it is Messiah who can give spiritual insight. He alone can heal the lame both spiritually and physically. He alone can heal the outcasts of society so they can worship freely and openly. He alone can open the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind so that they can take in the wonderful words of life. He alone can raise to new life those who were spiritually dead and give them new life. He alone can fill the coffers of the poor with spiritual riches that are incomparable in this world. 

This is the same message we have before us to “go and tell.” And, lastly, Jesus told them to say to John; those who are not offended by all of this are blessed indeed. Are you “going and telling?”

Faith is required for God to work

Faith is required for God to work

Luke 7 Matt 8:1-13 Jesus’ Healing Ministry – Questions answered about John the Baptist

Jesus remarked that he had not seen such faith even in Israel as he listened to the Centurion and said as much about the “woman of the city.” Jesus crosses every stratum of society, no one is left untouched. Take for example the leper who humbly comes to Jesus and asks if Jesus is willing to cleanse him and make him whole. Jesus responded not just with a word but a touch upon this unclean and untouchable man. 

The people heard Him and justified God; that is they acknowledged that faith and repentance were required for complete cleansing and healing. Yet, as the religious leaders watched, listened, and attended John’s sermons or attended a dinner at Simon’s house, they stayed aloof refusing to accept the faith challenge. Their focus was on this question: “who can forgive sins but God alone?”  They lacked the faith of the populace who recognized their need.  Their faith was tested and they were found doubting. James reminds us that he who doubts will never receive anything from the Lord. [James 1:6] 

How great is my faith? Do I doubt when I am in need of God’s cleansing work? 

Faith is required for God to work.

What God sees and what the world sees:

hear and obey

Matt 5-7 Hear and Do — What is my life built on?

Bear with me in my tears. James reminds us that we can sit all day and hear the words of Jesus flowing forth from preachers, friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and even ourselves, but if we do not obey, we are self-deceived. “But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.” [James 1:22]

The Son, Jesus, looks inwardly. Jesus challenges us to look inwardly to see what He sees. He asks us, Is your life built on him, the Rock of Ages, or is your life built on wood, hay, and stubble? Remember this; what you see me do or not do is not the standard. Jesus says you have heard my words now, step up and do them; otherwise, you are the fool who builds his life on sand. You must mourn over sin, and you must seek humility. You must seek the kingdom of heaven, for all of what you do outwardly is rubbish.

Am I praying? Am I seeking to share the gospel message? Am I sensitive to the hurts of others that we might win their heart for Jesus?

He taught as one with authority and not as the scribes. Therefore, listen and obey, for the scribes are building their lives on sand. You, beloved, are salt and light to a lost and dying world. Therefore, go and Build your life on the Rock.

What is Mercy?

What is mercy?

Mark 3; Luke 6; Matthew 12:1-21

Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted, bind up their wounds, and not condemn the guiltless. Mercy is reaching out to a man who has lived with a withered hand, thus hindering his ability to do manual work and restoring it no matter what day it is and even more so on the Sabbath. Mercy is looking at those who seek your life and choosing to walk away from their taunts. You decide not to engage them because that is a fruitless endeavor. Mercy is your broken heart, yet you choose to pray because conversations are unproductive until the Holy Spirit pricks their heart. Mercy recognizes that they may hate you, mock and scorn you, yet you are blessed as you face this day after day, moment after moment. Know this truth: your reward is great in heaven.

God knows you, He sees you, He chooses to bless you for your responses to these whose heart is hard. Continue, that means do not give up, to be merciful that those who are blind may one day see.

Which is the greater sin?

Whose rules do you follow?

John 5 Jesus returns to Jerusalem and heals a man (on the Sabbath) by the pool of Siloam not because he sought healing but because of Jesus’ heart of compassion. The man “immediately” obeys to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus has disappeared from this scene but the religious police accost this innocent man and charge him with breaking the Sabbath.

In the book of Numbers, we read of a story of a man who truly broke the Sabbath by picking up sticks and is stoned to death. Was this on their mind? When hearing their threats, did he, too, recall that story? Picture that, and now you understand his fear; what transpires next, and why we sometimes react as he did.   

Jesus finds the innocent healed man, and he reminds him that his healing is for a purpose; that he sin no more but use his healing for a greater purpose. Yet, as Proverbs reminds us, the fear of man is greater than the fear of God. [Prov 29:25] and so he rushes to the religious leaders to betray his healer. Now we see the true intent of their heart; they sought to find him to kill him.

The religious police didn’t want the man healed on the Sabbath, but they were willing to kill Jesus. So which is the greater sin?