Do You Know What Amazes Jesus?

Watching the NFL (National Football League) the last couple of weeks, I have been amazed observing Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans play.  He is 6’3’, weighs 247 lbs. and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds…an amazing athlete who plays against world class athletes weekly.  Yet, he has made these competitors look like kids having the brute strength to run over them, the speed to sprint around them and the athleticism to throw a jump pass  touchdown by them.  Many would say during the play-offs, he has played like the GOAT…the Greatest of All-Time.

Derrick Henry has amazed me, but do you know who amazed Jesus?  Take a look at Matthew 8:10 and you will see. 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”  Jesus was amazed at the “great faith” of a Roman Centurion of all people.  A Centurion was a military officer that had 100 men reporting to him.  In the times of Christ, these men were feared.  Some of them were hated and few were respected.  What “amazed” Jesus was not his military clout but his faith.  Let’s take a look at this officer’s story.

In Mark 8, it recorded that Jesus had entered Capernaum (a fishing village on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee), a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself 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.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.”

Analyzing this story, you discover that the Centurion displayed uncharacteristic behavior from the norm of a Roman officer.  He…

  1. Had a caring heart.  Of all people, he was concerned about his servant and took time from his busy schedule to locate and ask Jesus for help.  “‘Lord, ’he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’”  He saw the pain of his servant and was willing to sacrificially seek out help…he took his valuable time to wait on and  encounter Jesus.
  2. Lived out life with humility even as a man of authority
    1. This is first pictured when the centurion addressed Jesus as “Lord.”   Customarily, Roman officers were arrogant and disdained Jews showing them little respect.  Yet, this officer called Jesus, “Lord.”
    1. Then, he stated, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”  What genuine, Godly humility this soldier of stature had.
  3. Showed great faith…this is what amazed Jesus“Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself 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.”  As an officer, he understood authority.  There were military officers above him and soldiers below him.  The Centurion knew how to submit to and carry out the orders from the officers above him and how to issue orders to men below him with full expectation that they will be followed.  The Centurion was able to translate this to the Spiritual world recognizing that Jesus had ultimate authority.  He knew Christ was at the top of the authority chain in the spiritual realm.  Everyone knew that they had to bow down, submit to and obey orders issued “in the name of Jesus “.  Thus, he said, “Lord, just give the command and it will be done.”  This amazed Jesus!!  The Centurion saw clearly into the spiritual realm and how it worked recognizing the one with ultimate authority was Jesus.  So, if Jesus issued the order, his servant would be healed.

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed, it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.’

Do you see what the Centurion saw?  Jesus is the Authority.  Believe and trust Him and you will be amazed at what He does.  Matthew 28 “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” 

You Are Not Meant to Be Alone

One of the best days of my spiritual journey is the day that I walked into Re:Gen, a Bible based recovery ministry.  The very first thing that I heard was a testimony in “big group”, “My name is Todd.  I have a new life in Christ and am recovering from….”  I discovered that all testimonies in Re:Gen starts with a statement of faith, humility and transparency.  Each begins with “I have a new life in Christ…”  Very quickly the listener begins to understand for one to recover, they must walk in a newness of life in Christ.  He/she is admitting that “Christ living in me” is what changes and empowers me to flesh out a new life of recovery.  Then, there is a statement of what you are recovering from…i.e. the fear of being out of control, porn, addiction to drugs, overeating, fear of failure, fear of rejection, people, fear of a man (from women), sexual lust, sexual addiction, fear of crowds, money, power, etc.  The atmosphere is authentic, transparent and alive. 

In recovery, each of person is placed in a “closed group.”  The experience of “closed group” is church lived out right in front of you…you climb in the ring fighting for and with each other.  No one is sitting on the sidelines watching.  Everyone becomes a participant.

Verses from the Bible that I had heard for years came alive right in front of my eyes…

  • James 5 16 confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
  • Galatians 6 1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
  • Your “brothers” help restore you gently without condemnation “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
    • Yet, at the end of the day, each individual must determine “to test our own actions….to carry our own load” choosing to clean up hurtful, bitter relationships to the best of their abilities and stop believing lies that have imprisoned them.  He/she learns to walk a new life of recovery in the power of Christ.  It becomes their own testimony.

Whether you are in a recovery group or not, you need to find community in your local setting.  The Christian life is meant to be lived transparently and authentically in an “one another” environment.  Learn to walk arm-locked-in-arm with others.  I recognize that this may be frightening for you.  It was for me too.  Send a comment to me if you desire and I will try my best to help you get connected.  You are not meant to be alone.

Experience the Loving Embrace of the Prodigal Son’s Father

I am supporting a dear brother who has been in psychological and physical pain a number of years as a result of the consequences of sin (recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, sex/porn/lust and control) and various trials.  His family of origin could not have been more brutal.  His father was ruthless and his older brother who was a highly regarded high school football lineman frequently physically beat him up without his mother once defending him.  Often, they ridiculed him with emasculating comments.  All that remains of his family today are two middle school kids.  And, his ex-wife is fighting in court to keep him from being around them.  The volume of hurtful past experiences in his life should have been for twenty people.  As you can imagine, His self-talk is horrible and dark to the point of him personally determining whether life is worth living. 

Two years ago, he walked away from a closed group in a large, local Bible based recovery ministry.  If you have personally been in recovery you know a closed group is made up of folks who have become in some ways closer than siblings.  They “walk” together as a community of support and candor to push each other along the trail to forgiveness, healing and wholeness.  However, before he completed full recovery, he left these guys and went straight back into a life of sin and addiction with a vengeance.  They had invested so much time, energy, prayer and heart in his recovery, yet, he had separated from them.  This past Monday evening this dear brother had no idea what to expect when he walked back in the door of the same church two years later.  Will anyone remember him?  Will they be stand-offish?  Will they be perfunctory cordial?  What is going to happen when he goes through the doors again?

It did not take long for him to find out.  One guy from his old closed group immediately saw and moved towards him across this large gathering hall throwing his arms around his neck.  “Dude, we have missed you.  The guys are going to go crazy having you back!”  (crazy love?!) Just as this dear brother foretold, one by one each of his former “brothers” unabashedly loved him.  It was an unbelievable experience for me to behold and simply rejoiced as these guys “ran” towards him and demonstrated their love sincerely, graciously, rejoicefully, boyishly, enthusiastically with very little restraint.  They lavished my friend with the love of our heavenly Father.    

The only way that I am able to explain this experience to others is to point them to the story of how the Father of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 lavished him with underserved, graceful, merciful love.  Let’s look at the Luke 15 passage… after squandering all of his inheritance on wild living, he was totally destitute, bankrupt and decided to go back home.  How will he be received?  Will he be received?  To his surprise “20 while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So, they began to celebrate.”

The very moment the father saw him, he ran to the prodigal son and lavished him with his love.  Do you realize that he would do the same for you?  Go back home and feel the warm embrace of the Father’s love.  Revelations 3:20 exclaims, 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.”  And, if a prodigal walks into the door of your home, church or meeting room, I pray that you will receive them as our Father has received us.

My Grandson Played a Game Against I-Slam

This past Saturday, what should have been a light-hearted, fun loving experience of watching five-year-old kids and grandkids play basketball became a much more emotional game than it should have.  We were laughing and carrying on before the game until my son-in-law noticed that we were playing a team called I-Slam.  He recognized that it was a play on words.  Remove the dash and it became the word “Islam.”  It was obvious by the ethnicity of the other team that it was indeed meant to be Islam.  The current world environment took over this simple little game.  All of a sudden it became “American” kids vs. “Islam” kids!  Both sides became way-over- the-top into the game.  Of course, the “America” side started noticing that we were substituting which meant our “star” players were not on the court half of the game.  However, the other team never substituted for their one “superstar” player.  I know, I know…these were five-year-old kids and we as adults were acting childish.  Both sides needed an adjustment.  As irony would have it, the game ended up an 18-18 tie. 

During the game, as a Christ-follower, I began asking myself how I should behave.  My emotions had gotten swept up in the moment.  Here is the candid answer that came to me out of God’s Word.  Matthew 5,14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  We don’t’ pick and choose when light should shine.  Christians, 24X7, should be shining our light to others for the glory of God.

So, after the game, I walked up to a couple parents on the other team and simply said, “What an exciting game!  Your team was very good and your son played really well.  I know you are proud.”  At first, they seemed to be caught off guard but then responded to me warmly.  As I talked to them a brief few moments, I noticed that a couple of other parents began listening in actually smiling at me.

You know what?  It is a complicated world that we live in.  Let’s never forget a straight-forward, clear statement that the Apostle Paul makes to us as believers in Jesus Christ about our world.  Ephesians 6 declares, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Let’s not get caught up with people and comprehend the churn in this world is produced by the “prince and power of the air”, the devil.  He relishes chaos.  As Christians, we are called to be lights to our world no matter where we are.

Don’t You Hate Driving on Empty!

Driving in the craziness of DFW traffic is bad enough even with a tank full of gas.  However, driving in the multi-lane environment with the constant threat of an accident jamming up the highway is especially worrying when your car is setting close to empty.  Furthermore, having very little gas in the tank in rush hour takes the emotionally intensity to another level.  I find myself constantly looking at the gauge that notifies me how many more miles I have to empty and hoping the gauge is accurate!  What if it isn’t?  Talking about nerve racking, when my wife is in the car with me wondering out loud why I did not fill up with gas earlier is not fun!  So, admittedly driving on empty in DFW is dreadful!

The Bible tells us that all of us are living-on-empty until we choose the redemption of Christ.  1 Peter 1:18&19 states this clearly, “18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  All of us are born into this world in an “empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.”  We are all sitting on empty.  And, this verse states that we cannot fill our tank up as much as we may try with “silver or gold” referring to the things of this world.  All of our personal efforts end up on empty.

You will discover there is only one way to fill up your tank!  You must choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior allowing the “the precious blood of Christ” to redeem you from your sin and the empty way of your life.  He fills you up with His Spirit and you begin walking in a newness of life with your tank full.  2 Corinthians 5:17 describes this beautifully, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

It is time for you fill up for the first time or to return to His redemption if you have walked away for a while living an “empty way of life.”  Life is so difficult and dreadful while you are living it sitting on empty.

I Am a Recovering Sugar Drunk

One of the big challenges for me during the holidays is not to binge on sugar.  As the title of this blog states, I am a recovering sugar drunk.  Once sugar enters my body, my neuro receptors crave for more.  And, I allowed myself to be overpowered by this addiction again.  Being a part of the recovery community, I immediately reached out to a dear Christian brother who has the same problem.  Why?  He would be empathetic and candid holding me accountable to say “no” to worldly passions.  Then, he would point me to the cross and God’s desire and empowerment to live a life free from fleshly desires.

When I reached out to Dave, he already had the Bible verses in mind that would give me the strength and enlightenment needed.  Titus 2:11&12 are awesome, “11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”  Let’s look at these verses clearly:

  1. For “the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation.”  This verse focuses me on the “grace of God” recognizing that I am bankrupt when I try to live the Christian life in my own power.  Because of His grace, I can surrender my life to Him receiving salvation not only from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.  Ephesians 2:8&9 are clear, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  So, I have chosen to live by faith in His grace, a gift, and live in His strength.
  2. After I re-focus on His grace then Paul the Apostle states for me to choose to say “‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.”  In my own strength, I cannot do this.  My addiction overwhelms me.  But, being focused on His grace, I can.
  3. Then, Paul tells me what God greatly desires for my life, “to live a self-controlled, upright and godly life.”  Don’t be enslaved by worldly passion but be
    • Self-controlled (not out of control)
    • Upright (not uptight)
    • Godly (live like Jesus)

If I do the above, my life becomes free not enslaved by this world.

This is my story.  How about yours?  Are you being overpowered by something that is “ungodly” (e.g. drug or alcohol addiction, sex/porn addiction, overcome by jealousy, envy,  control issues or co-dependency)? If so, the model to freedom is clear:  Christ, commitment to His Word and community. 

I pray 2020 will be a year of growth and joy for you and yours!

Just Say “No”

Some of us have a difficult time saying, “No.”  It may be that we are fearful of rejection and co-dependent on the approval of others to feel good about ourselves.  Co-dependency on others can lead to harsh realities.  For example:

  • You may end up in a difficult marriage because you were afraid to break the relationship off even before marriage when you saw warning signs yet feeling manipulated by another or others.  Some of these misguided advisers may have been relatives or “friends.”
  • You may find yourself in a compromising situation yet do not want to experience the wrath of another or others because you are unwilling to follow along.
  • You may discover that you are working for a boss who is expecting results even if it means you do something unethical or hurtful to others to be successful.  You may be hearing, “Dude, you gotta do what you gotta do to get the job done.”

There are a myriad of hurtful, fearful relational environments that Jesus followers find themselves because they feel powerless to say “No.”

Never forget that God has called us to be “peacemakers” not “peacekeepers.”  Peacekeepers “go along to get along.”  These folks do not want to create adverse waves that lead to rejection.  Once you closely observe the men and women in scripture, you discover that God does not want us to be peacekeepers

However, being a peacemaker is a totally different thing.  Peacemakers recognize that we as Christians are called to be straightforward, honest, loving people, “speaking the truth in love.”   As a result of that “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” Ephesians 4:15.  Peacemakers may find themselves disapproved by others but recognize that we are called to honor Christ first.  The two qualifiers of our speech are “truth” and “love.”  You learn to speak truth and love in a humble, non-judgmental manner and trusts the results to God.  God makes this promise to us in James 3:18, Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Remember these two verses always as you live out life…Titus 2 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.